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#ISBF4 Brewday No 8 : Brewsmith Beer

Some breweries declaim their excellence from a mountain top. With a loudhailer. Some will employ PR companies to design a campaign about how they are going to change the world, one beer at a time.

But some just get on brewing beer. Excellent, tasty beer. No fanfare. No fuss. They let the beer do the talking.

For me, that’s Brewsmith.

Founded in 2014, they’ve been with Us all the way on our little journey. And they’ve just got better and better, producing consistently high quality beers. Time and again. You know that when you see that distinctive pump clip, that you can trust what’s going into your glass.

Trust. That comes with consistency. And consistency is important. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Meeting James Smith at 7am constituted a lie in for me – less welcome was the spilt coffee on the bus seat. Without a really strong cup of coffee I’m a grumpy old git.

With the grist (majority Extra Pale malt) pre organised in the case, this was a quick start for mashing in with the usual life-affirming malty aromas soon filling the brew space.

Being gravity fed (like Wishbone on Tuesday), little or no manual agitation was required as it struck me again that this bespoke kit (advised by James Campbell – now of Cloudwater) was designed with simplicity, efficiency and ease of use in mind.

The first gas fired copper I have encountered being a further example of this. Cost effective in operation and quicker to boil. I was fascinated.

(gratuitous sparge shot)

Transfer was quick and smooth (another day of no hitches) and we were soon up to boil and adding Aurora & Green Bullet for bittering…

Time for some fun. Opening up fresh packs of Citra & Mosaic…. Bloody hell did they smell fabulous! Broke up a good chunk of Simcoe too. This beer will certainly be aromatic!

Throughout the brew, the dedication to getting things just right was apparent, with regular ph measurements and gravity checking all with the aim of making this beer as good as…

And as you can see, it’s going to be Pale. And aromatic!

With flameout, in went the aroma hops. All of that beautiful Citra, Mosaic & Simcoe, with the copper flooding the area with tropical fruit smells. Stunning.

Shortly after, transfer to FV started. And another new addition to me. Oxygen. To help fire the yeast up.

With transfer to FV completed and the yeast pitched, if was back to testing for gravity (and subsequent abv prediction). This will be low abv – about 3% – and will be dry hopped with large chunks of Simcoe, Mosaic & Equanot.

It will be light, nicely bodied and hoppy – what Brewsmith does exceptionally well. A Table Beer. Something we’ve lacked previously. And – given my predilection for early loading with big beers – very welcome indeed.

This brewday was another object lesson in design, thought and planning. The brewery being expertly designed around what’s important. Brewing excellent beer, consistently well.

I’m really looking forward to this.

Massive thanks to James & Jen (and Ozzy – you were NEVER getting that sandwich fella!), especially James, for tolerantly coping with my ceaseless questioning. Also for travelling to Finchampstead to brew in the #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Collab series with Andy Parker at Elusive.

This Table Beer is first on my list. At the first place to get it. #ISBF4

Remaining tickets here.

Don’t miss it. It’s gonna be an amazing few days!


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#ISBF4 Brewday No 7 : Neptune Brewery

Neptune Brewery – a rare one this.

I (Jim) have made a number of acquaintances in the brewing business that have gone on to become friends. But with Neptune it was different.

A “Twitter friendship” that turned into the real kind. Via beer, of course. Les O’Grady and his lovely wife Julie have been both gurus – leading us on a Pied Piper style journey through the best of Liverpool beer – and friends pretty much since we first met. Which, I think, may have been at #ISBF2014.

A couple of years ago, Les decided to take the plunge and immerse himself in the world of malt and hops. And it’s going from strength to strength across a range of beer styles and on both keg and cask.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, consistency is a seriously underrated virtue. And when I see a Neptune clip, I know I’m going to get a tasty beer. Personally, that trust you build through consistency is incredibly important. And it’s how reputations are built.

It’s also how you get tap takeovers at places like Cask in Pimlico and endorsements from luminaries like Melissa Cole!

Les and Julie have been with us throughout our beer journey and – as the author of this report (Lee) can attest – are fierce competitors for the first ticket to be bought. And we love them for it!

We’re also delighted that they agreed to collaborate on the #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Collab series – that one coming soon….

And the Karkli Sherpa doesn’t travel across from The Steel City for just anyone….

Over to Lee (aka @Leggywolf). Take it away…

“My second brewday for Team ISBF4 was another early start. Well, not that early for me but for the Karkli Sherpa legend Steve @_lowest01, as he had set off at 6:00 from Sheffield and got to mine at 7:30. We exchanged pleasantries and what now seems to becoming a frequent occurrence we also exchanged beers! (It’s great having friends to share the costs of some online beer purchases with!)

Then we headed to Maghull the home of @neptunebrewery and Les O’Grady the Maghull Magician! I first meet Les through Jim when we all went over to Liverpool and Les and Julie gave us a guided tour of the city it was a great day out and my first visit to The Grapes, also my first taste of Neptune Abyss one hell of an oatmeal Stout!  If  you like stouts – and haven’t tried this – run don’t walk to your nearest stockist!!

We were greeted not only by Les but Jack from Crosby Coffee @coffeecrosby who was supplying the coffee for today’s brew. Yep! A coffee beer.  In fact a Coffee IPA!

We got started straight away with the mash and seeing as me and Steve missed mashing in on the last brewday we were happy to get stuck into this one. 

We added 175kg of golden promise, 10kg of brown malt to add some coffee notes and 10kg of flaked oats. Once the mashtun was full we then added 1kg of freshly ground Ethiopian Konga Yirgacheffe FT coffee (don’t ask me to pronounce that!). The huge coffee aroma hit we got was amazing!

This sat for a while doing its job of getting all those sugars out of those grains. It was at this point that Julie @julie_ogrady founder of the great twitter group @ladiesthatbeer turned up. We’d been told she might be fetching the whip to get us working. Luckily for us she went for the carrot method. In the form of doughnuts! And so we had a doughnut break! 

Once it got to sparging and transferring time I was given a great responsibility! I was given the job of pressing the switch that turned on the pump!

This transferred the wort over to the kettle and needed switching on every time the underback filled! I took this role very seriously and Les said that I did a sterling job and a certificate for switch presser would be in the post. (It still hasn’t turned up yet Les….) 

Once it was all transferred it still had to get to boil temperature and Les gave us the challenge of getting the Mashtun dug out and everything cleaned before we hit that temp. 

We had the mashtun dug out and everything cleaned down and the temp gauge was only reading 95 so we’d won that challenge and thought it only fair we rewarded ourselves with what I called a brewers dinner!

(STRONG glassware game….)

Damn fine it was too! I bloody love the Weisse Its one damn refreshing drink!

With 500 grams of magnum in the wort for bittering. It was boil time. For the last five mins five kg of simcoe were added and boy did those hops smell great. You only have to see Steves’ approach to hop smelling to see what I mean!

Then it was time to transfer to the fermenter. Whilst this was happening we may have made a few purchases it would be rude to visit a brewery and not buy some beer!

We also chatted for a while all realising that if it wasn’t for Jim’s Salfordbeerfest that us three wouldn’t be sat there in the brewery chatting away. Les put it best when he said that without Salfordbeerfest and twitter we would probably still be at the same beer festivals at the same time. Maybe stood next to each other at the bar and giving each other a nod and saying he’s next mate to the barman. But with twitter and Jim we’ve all become friends and now meet up at various places (Beer Fests) round the country!

(That aroma…….!)

Once everything was transferred over and the temperature was right it was time to pitch the yeast.

On Monday this coffee IPA is going to get even more coffee added to it when it gets dry beaned (is that a term? Well it is now!) with 10kg of beans being added to it. A mix of Ethiopian and Guatemalan beans.

When finished this will be a 5.8% coffee IPA and keeping with the nautical theme of Neptune beer names we came up with the name 

Run Aground. 

Can’t wait to see how this turns out and your first chance to try this is Salfordbeerfest so if you haven’t already got a ticket you need to rectify that soon as they won’t hang around for ever!”

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#ISBF4 #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Collab series No 3 – Torrside & Bexar County (Q&A)

The #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side. An idea rooted in random collaboration. The luck of the draw. These kinds of things CAN result in some odd pairings.

Not this time.

Torrside are – by nature – experimental. And bloody good at what they do. 

And as for Mr Bexar County (Steve Saldana), just don’t ask… Anyone who tried the “Thin Line Between Genius & Insanity” last year will know all too well!

Pairing them was a stroke of genius. (I wish! It was more random than that!)

Anyway, we thought we’d have a bit of a Q&A with our collaborating friends. Here are their thoughts…

Torrside :

Guys! Introduce yourself and the brewery : –

We’re in New Mills, on the edge of the Peak District, and we’ve been up and running for just over two years now. We seem to have got most attention for our smoked and imperial output, but we do brew more “normal” beers too! We’re all still juggling day-jobs, so the brewing and packaging is mostly evenings and weekends. We are scaling up production as we speak however, so hopefully we’ll soon be moving towards Torrside being the day-job!

What/who inspired you to start brewing?

We’d each been homebrewing for years before starting Torrside, so we’d had plenty of time playing around with ingredients, processes and techniques. Figured we’d have a crack at scaling up and sharing our beer with the wider world!

What is the ethos of Torrside Brewing?

It might sound obvious, but same as we’d been doing at home – we just set out to brew beers that are interesting to drink. Whether that’s using lesser-known hops in a mainstream style, or laying down the gauntlet with a peat-smoked barley wine 🙂

What are the benefits of brewing collaboratively?

Everyone has their own way of doing things, so it’s always great to compare approaches and pick up ideas from other brewers and their experiences. And it’s sociable – we love meeting and brewing with new people. Plus it’s an excuse to geek out about brewing and talk at great length about subjects that would be way beyond most people’s boredom thresholds!

We are incredibly grateful that you agreed to take part in our #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Collab Series. You’ve been to ISBF, How do you think ISBF compares to other festivals you’ve been to.

We love the atmosphere at Salford, as it feels more like a relaxed gathering of friends than a regular beer festival. It’s definitely got a uniquely chilled out feel. We were chuffed to be asked on board for the 5-a-side series, as it gives us an excuse to brew something a bit more out-of-the-ordinary. (Not that the cask beer we’re bringing is particularly ordinary…!)

What was your reaction when you found out you were paired with Bexar County Brew?

The only Bexar County beer we’d previously tried was the loopy Kombucha sour milk concoction they brewed with Offbeat for last year’s festival, so we immediately knew this would be an opportunity to brew something a bit special! And with a brewer who isn’t just happy with unorthodox ingredients, but very good with them!

What inspired the beer?

The beer started life as something Peter had brewed at home years ago as a small experimental batch. We’d been not getting around to brewing a commercial version for a while, so this seemed like the ideal opportunity to dust it off! We sent a couple of sample bottles (well-aged, but still tasting good) down to Steve at Bexar, and he came back with some tweaks and adjustments, so we developed a final recipe from there.

What did each brewer add to the recipe?

With the 5-a-side beer the concept was pretty clear, so it was about getting the body and balance right between us. And you’ll know we have the “Monsters” series of strong beers, which we brew parallel to a main beer via a technique called parti-gyling, so Steve came up with the idea of making a strawberry & raspberry barleywine on the side – so that should be something that uniquely reflects both breweries! (Afraid that one won’t be on on the bar at Salford, but keep an eye out in the usual places…)

Cask v Keg. Thoughts?

Cask scores 2 points more in Scrabble.

What are we to expect from the collab beer?

An Indian Pale Ale unlike any other! (or ‘which isn’t a typo’?)

[More serious answer] We’ve been meaning to sort out a collab with Thirst Class for ages. As long-time friends and ex-homebrew comrades, it feels like something we really need to do. Just a case of both of us finding the time to sit down and come up with a worthy recipe idea!

WOW! Thanks guys!


Introduce yourself and the brewery : –

Bexar County Brewery (pronounced Bear) is named from where I am from; San Antonio (home of the Alamo) …Bexar County.  The brewery was born in 2012 mostly because there weren’t many breweries at the time making creative beers (or at least, not creative enough for me) and the breweries in the area were mostly making trad beer (aside from the rather large Oakham Ales…) and I am not really a trad drinker. I am a one man band which I see as a huge benefit because it means I get to be as creative as I want to be without having to worry about the effects on my employees.  We don’t have any core beers which means that recipe writing is constant…good thing it is something that I love to do!

What/who inspired you to start brewing?

How I got started brewing is one of those happy sad stories.

I was living here in the UK and my father (in Texas) was diagnosed with cancer.  It too two years for it to finally defeat him, but during that time, I took it upon myself to spend as much time helping him out as possible.  The time I spent in Texas was very intense and emotionally draining and I needed to find a way to relieve myself of that stress…and lucky for me a brewery opened up just a few miles down the road from where I was staying.  As luck would have it, I met the head brewer, Rob Landerman, at an event and we hit it off immediately.  He invited me to volunteer at the brewery and I did.

I trained under Rob and learned everything I could.  He happened to be an extremely creative brewer and he taught me that there were no limits…no real rules when it came to design of beer.

When I returned back to the UK permanently, I purchased an old 7 bbl brewkit from a local brewery that was upgrading and was confident that I could do something different in the industry.

Above when I said I don’t have any core beers, that is not exactly true.  I have one beer that I will always brew…called Papa Steve.  It is called this because it was my father’s dying wish to me to name a beer after him…as he put it, “to be immortalised in beer” (Jim – FANTASTIC idea)

What is the ethos of Bexar County Brew? 

I have the belief to never compromise.  When I first started the brewery, all of the local people told me that I would fail within the first year.  No core range, unfined beer, strange flavors, and an aversion to 4% beers….there is no way a brewery like that could succeed. And yet the brewery still stands today.

We only use the best ingredients, no synthetic flavourings, and never rush a beer.  I brew because I want to create, I want to risk.  

I’ve always said that I want my beer to be memorable, for good or for bad.  I never want to produce that beer that you are drinking while having a conversation and you forget that it is there…or you get it switch up with someone else’s and don’t even realise.  I want my beers to make an impact.  I am aware that there will be some misses, and that I will make some beers that are not to people’s liking… but I am just as happy failing as I am succeeding as long as I feel I am bringing something to the industry.

What are the benefits of brewing collaboratively?

Collaborations are something that I live for.  I like to push breweries to produce things that are out of their comfort zone.  That being said, I also like that those breweries tend to reign me in a bit too.

I think the overall benefit is that no two brewers see things the same.  We all have different techniques and styles that we use to produce beer.  It is great to work with other brewers because that is how we grow.  It is too easy for us to brew one way, whether it is procedurally or through our recipes, and we often have blinders to the other options available to us.  Collaborations take those blinders off and enable us to see the potential around us.

Collaborations also bring like minded people together.  Let’s face the facts, us brewers are an odd lot…a great lot, but odd none the less.  When we do collabs, we are in our element…we can be who we really are and we don’t have to worry about being judged because we’ve all been there done that.

We are incredibly grateful that you agreed to take part in our #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Collab Series. You’ve been to ISBF, How do you think ISBF compares to other festivals you’ve been to.

I simply love the fest.  I love it that I can be at a fest and just enjoy (It doesn’t seem like work being there).  I get to try all sorts of beers that I wouldn’t normally see (especially since most of them are from up north) and I get to socialise with some of the most incredible people.  The people who attend the fest do so because they want to be there, not because they feel they need to be there.  This creates an inviting and relaxing atmosphere where it is a pleasure to drink beer.

What was your reaction when you found out you were paired with Torrside Brewing?

I was honestly over the moon.  Last year I opened up a bar in Peterborough, the Stoneworks, and we carry all sorts of weird and wonderful beers from all over the country.  Torrside is one of the few breweries that we have had on that I had never heard of that really did it for me.  We had a number of their beers on and they were all stellar.  It was great to see a brewery pushing the envelope with flavor.  

I think that we are a great match for this because both breweries are flavor forward.

What inspired the beer?

Word on the street the basis of this recipe comes from an old homebrew recipe.  I have looked over the original recipe and I am quite excited at the prospect of making this beer.  I think it actually plays into both breweries strengths which means..if all goes well….this is going to be one hell of a beer!

What did each brewer add to the recipe?
Torrside provided the original recipe and I suggested a few tweaks that I think will push the recipe forward a little.  In the end, there was a little magic from both breweries, but Torrside provided the cauldron.

Cask v Keg. Thoughts?
For me, it is keg all of the way.  I grew up drinking keg and I think the most innovative beers are coming in this format.  I think that slowly but surely people are becoming clued in to the fact that keg beer must be “kept” well in order for it to taste its best.  Best line cleaning practices, actual cold stores instead of cellars, correct glassware and pour volumes all lead to the best keg experience and as keg becomes more common, the service of this style is getting better leading to an overall better drinking experience.
This, however does not mean that I don’t value cask.  A perfectly kept cask beer is an absolute dream.  My problem is that there are very few people and places out there that are willing to do what is necessary to serve the perfect cask conditioned beer.
If you give me the choice between a perfectly kept cask and a perfectly served keg beer… I’d just take them both because I am greedy like that!

What are we to expect from the collab beer?
I think you should something different.  The beer itself will be session strength which will make it different then the majority of other Collabs commissioned for this fest (at least I think that is the truth) and will be full of spice.  It should be smooth and easy going but full of flavor… So I guess just expect what you might normally expect from either of our breweries : deliciously tasty beer!
You’ve collaborated with a number of breweries around the country, it’s there anyone else you’d really like to brew with? 
For me, collabs are extremely personal.  I like to work with people I like and who’s ethos I agree with.  I don’t chase collaborations.
I’d like to do a collaboration with the brewery /brewer that I randomly run into while having a drink somewhere and we start talking and we come up with a really stupid idea and decide it can’t be done so we should try. To me, that would be the perfect brewery to collaborate with because that beer would be spawned out of love of beer and creativity rather than the desire to just make another beer to put our names on.
WE can’t wait to taste this special beer! Thanks to both Torrside & Bexar County for both brewing the beer and taking the time to answer out questions. 
This beer will be special. And certainly different. 
Just don’t ask where you will get it first! 

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#ISBF4 #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Collab Series No 3 : Torrside & Bexar County


I’ve known the individual guys behind Torrside (Chris, Nick & Peter) for a few years now, since they were “merely” very talented amateur brewers winning multiple awards along the way. Their development into bold and adventurous commercial brewing has been a pleasure to follow.

I’ve had a number of their beers in the last few months on a regular basis and they are – for both myself and several of #TeamISBF – ones of the standout breweries of this year in the Greater Manchester area.

They were an easy pick to be one of the Northern breweries in this “5-a-side” series. 

I was totally chuffed when they agreed to be our glassware sponsors for #ISBF4 too!

Steve (Bexar County) Saldana’s beers get up here far too infrequently for my liking. I’ve loved each beer I’ve been lucky to have ever since his collab “Coffee Pecan Mild?” collab with Hand Drawn Monkey about 3 years ago.

To say that this most likeable of Texans loves to experiment with flavours is somewhat of an understatement. As anyone who tried his collab with Offbeat Brewery last ISBF will attest, that Kombucha Soured Milk Neapolitan Ale from last year was astonishing!

Again, Steve was an easy choice.

The luck of the draw put these two together and had me (and others) full of anticipation for the results…

I’ve tried to spread the load with #ISBF4, so was pleased when 3 of the 5 Berks said they could attend and sorted the details. They adore both breweries, so they were a bit excited……

The rest I’ll leave to Lee (@Leggywolf)….

“Four years ago I thought I’d take a risk and go to a beer festival in Salford that some guy I followed on twitter was organising. I knew from his tweets that he certainly knew a lot about beer and thought there’d be a good chance the beer fest would be worth the risk. How right I was!

Now ‘that guy’ is a close friend and is obviously Jim of @SalfordBeerFest. I could only make one session that first time due to holiday commitments but don’t worry the following two years I made sure I get to as many sessions as I can (All Of Em!).

Last year Jim said it was the final Salfordbeerfest! Quite a few of us regular attendees (people who four years ago I didn’t know, now a great bunch of people I’m proud to call my friends) thought we couldn’t let that happen so after begging Jim to carry on he agreed as long as he didn’t have to carry the full burden of organising it all. Team #ISBF4 was born!

I’m glad to say I’m part of that team and my first chance to give a bit back and help with #ISBF4 came when I was asked to help with the @Torrside & @BexarCountyBrew Collab Brewday along with Steve (@_lowest01),James (@BeerFinderGeneral) and the dog that’s taking the beer twitter world by storm Stanley (@BeerHounderGen) Making it a three Berks and a dog day out! I’d hardly call this going out my way. I mean I was getting to go and help brew beer in a brewery! I’ve never even tried home brewing and the closest I’ve ever got to brewing in a brewery has been the numerous times I may have created a new beer at a brewtap by simply having a Black and Tan. So to say I was excited was an understatement!

So early Sunday morning I set off to Torrside brewery. It’s a bit of a journey for me from deepest darkest Blackburn but one I’ve made a few times for their brewtaps which are always a great day out and definitely worth the journey with their selection of sweet smokey beers and some of the best IPAs out there with both Sandinista and I’m Spartacus. 

As me and James arrived at 10:30 yes we were late. But we’re Berks so sue us!! The guys had already mashed in using 200kg of Pale & Carapils grain and were just starting the recirculation process. We were informed the mash had gone really well. Maybe too well as this could mean something else might go wrong later!

At this point 200 litres of the wort was drained off into the pilot kit to brew a Monster then the main wort was topped up again sparging took place then it was transferred into the kettle. It was three quarters of the way through this that the easy mash came back to bite us in the proverbial as the pump failed meaning we’d have to manually jug the rest of it by hand!

Once that was done 700 grams of Columbus was added to the main wort for bittering & 200 grams of magnum to the monster in the pilot kit. 

It was at this point that Peter cracked out a bottle of his three year old home brew that was an inspiration for this beer. A Tikka Pale. Yes you heard right. And boy did it taste good really refreshing with a lemony hit from the Apollo hops and lightly spiced from the added Tikka spices corriander, cumin, clove, cardamom, fenugreek & chili!

I really could’ve drank it all day. But apparently mashtuns don’t dig out themselves. 

So under the masterful eye of James (he had dug out his first mashtun the day before making him the expert) me and Steve dug out the mashtun!

Once we’d done this it was time for the hops to be steeped at 80 degrees in the main brew they came in the form of 4kg of lemony Apollo the smell was amazing as we broke these up. I really didn’t want to wash my hands after this. 

Before going on this brewday we had been warned that if Stanley and Kami the Torrside brewery dog where in the same room the world could implode with cute. Stupidly we went ahead with this idea. Thinking that wouldn’t be a bad way to go. Luckily we’re all still here!

(Allegations that we posed on a promise of a strategically placed sandwich are a heinous lie! We’re professionals. – Stanley & Kami)

Now it was time to add some tea to the Monster to make it into an Imperial Fruit Tea Pale Monster! A full pack of Strawberry & Raspberry tea was added giving off some great fruity aromas and giving it a slight pink tinge! Really looking forward to this one!

There may have been another break for beers at this point and even some pics of beers posted to twitter. 

We then seemed to get a DM from the Berk Overlord telling us to stop drinking & get working on taking pics of the brew and take some notes. We DMd him back with a picture we’d be sure he’d like!

Both beers were then transferred to their FVs and the same mix of spices used in the home brew will be added to the pale during fermentation with the addition of some dried Mulato chilies that Steve from BexarCounty fetched along. These smelt great they had a slight smokiness to them. 

Then it was time for a bit of cleaning and for James to find out that if you use the hose back to front you will be in for a face full of water. 

After both beers were in their FVs the Torrside guys really made us feel welcome with an amazing selection of beers. We got to some sample some of their home brew beers and some experimental beers they’ve played around with. Along with some pretty special bottles they broke out for us too!!

Can’t wait to see how the Tikka Pale turns out. 

And you’ll all be able to see how it turns out from 19 Oct to 21 Oct at SalfordBeerFest just make sure you’ve got a ticket because sessions are selling out!

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#ISBF4 Brewday No 6 – Wishbone Brewery

The roots of this day are firmly planted in the fertile soil of #ISBF2016. And a hop laden 3.7% session Pale called Pastiche. A beer which – quite simply – blew me away with flavour and sheer drinkability.

In short, it made an impression.

Inviting Wishbone to #ISBF4 was, therefore, a given. I’ve never had anything less than excellence from this Keighley brewery. So, when head brewer Adrian asked if we wanted to come to the brewday of the beer he had planned for this year’s event, I had to check my work calendar!

So, with the lovely Linda in the passenger side, we headed over the hills and (not so) far away, to Keighley.

To the first surprise. What a HUGE place!

Space for a permanent tap room? Check!

Space for a 10bbl brew kit, 5 FVs, a 5-a-side pitch (complete with spectators stands!)…….

Let’s say it’s roomy.

We were here to brew N-Star 2. A ramped up version of a previous session Pale, Night Star. And – in all the brew days I’ve been involved with, none – and I mean NONE – have gone more smoothly.

Adrian had a busy day ahead and left us in the more than capable hands of Oliver, his assistant brewer.

With a gravity fed grist from a grist case on the floor above, mashing in couldn’t have been more straightforward

And if you don’t feel immense love for the smells of mashing in, the sea is 40 miles due West. Feel free to get in it!

Before we knew it we were running the sugar rich wort on to first wort Summit hops (for bittering) and we were soon – or so it seemed – to hit a rolling boil.

Once you’ve been to one brewday, you’ve seen most. But this particular day was so smooth. Everything worked, did its job. It was clear – having been to a brewery or 30 – that a great deal of thought had gone into the building of this brewery. That it had been set up to make the processes smooth.

An impressive set up all over.

With the rolling boil heading tho the end, late hops were added. With more Summit, Ahtenum & a big chunk of aromatic Mosaic going in 5 minutes prior to “flame out”. Cue incredible fruity aromas.

With the great bulk of the grist being Extra Pale malt, this is going to be one VERY pale thing. As you can see.

It’s also going to be quite hoppy too, with all those late hops being augmented by dry hopping with more Summit, Ahtenum and another big chunk of Mosaic.

(Impy was feeling VERY protective of our FV!)

If my previous experience of Wishbone beers is anything to go by, this is going to be super drinkable, really fruity hopped and bloody lush.

5.5% abv. Well hopped. Extra Pale.

I can’t wait!

Thanks to Adrian, Oliver and everyone for making us feel really welcome and at home, for taking such time to explain processes and techniques and for being simply lovely.

This is going to be one lovely beer. AND where do you think you’re going to get this first in Manchester?

Answers on a postcard……


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#ISBF4 Collab Brewday No 5 : Rivington Brewing

For my part (Jim), it’s fair to say that I’ve been hugely impressed by the beers coming out of this little brewery on the shore of Lower Anglezarke Reservoir.

From the light Sorachi Saison of Proper Ace to the vogueish “Fog”, through to its more potent siblings “Euro Fog” & “Tu Meke…”, Ben Stubbs has just been pouring out outstanding beers from this farm located brewery.

(Hop Bines in harmony…)

So much so that I felt compelled to ask if he’d take part in our #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Collab series (read that one here). And I was so pleased he agreed – I think he enjoyed it too. Thankfully. As it’s a damn long journey to Pig and Porter!

The following words and photos tell the story. Told by two unashamed fans of this excellent small brewery (Richard and James – our own ISBF Aphex Twins).

I’ll leave it to Richard….

Rivington Brew Day

Quite some time ago, I was asked if I wanted to get involved with the brew day for ISBF4 with my local brewery, Rivington. When the planning for the festival was underway, Jim reminded me of this, and let me know that James (@BeerFinderGeneral) would be joining me as brewing assistant to the great Ben Stubbs, head brewer/owner of Rivington Brewing co.

After a few DM’s between the 3 of us, we settled on the 16th September to do the brew, starting about 9.15am, as James had to travel all the way from Poynton. I believe this was the first time James had realised there were two 6.30’s in a day. I was grateful of the lie in!

I had a pleasant 30 minute walk up to the brewery, the sun was out and it was looking like a good day. James arrived by train into Blackrod, and after Ben had collected him, we were ready to go. Bizarrely, for 2 people who love their beer, neither James or I had been involved in a brewing process previously and were both really looking forward to it.

I know this area well, but the first thing that struck me was how lovely the location was. Open views of fields from within the small, but perfectly functional brewery. The second thing James and I commented upon was the awesome smell of hops, from the previous days kegging of another new beer. Finally, I also noticed that James is taller than I remembered! It was great to see him and Ben again, and after a few pleasantries, we got stuck in.

My first job was to open the malt sacks, while James was weighing them out into buckets, first he weighed the crushed wheat, followed by the ale malt, oat malt, and finally I added the gypsum. During this activity, James mentioned that in a previous summer job, he used to put the fillings on sandwiches. I found this most interesting.

Ben fired up the equipment, and while we waited for the temperature to get up to 74.5 degrees, we chatted about beer and cleaned up some equipment.

We got to the desired temperature, so that we would mash in about 65 degrees, and while I added the buckets of malt, James was exercising his biceps by taking on the stirring duties. Towards the end of this process, we swapped roles so we were both able to experience both roles. It’s like stirring a large bowl of porridge, and the aroma was amazing.

While the grain was doing it’s stuff in the mash tun, we had time for some brunch at Rivington Barn, with all 3 of us fuelling up with eggs benedict with bacon. We had time to chat some more about beer, before returning to the brewery to prepare for the sparge.

At this time, I really got to show off my superior spooning technique during the recirculation process, before Ben started the hypnotic spinning sparge arm.

We did get a little worried at this point as there appeared to be a blockage in the mash tun, but luckily, Ben was able to clear this with his sonic screwdriver, to allow the process to continue, all the while periodically checking his refractometer and generally ensuring that James and I were not messing up the whole process. Despite Ben’s comment that the ABV wouldn’t be high enough, we soon found out that he was pulling our leg. All his readings etc were spot on. We were doing alright!

(Gratuitous homegrown hop shot)

We were then ready for the boil, which meant another waiting period, but before we had time to relax, there was the small task of digging out the mash tun. This is the part of the day I’d been looking forward to most (honestly!). I took the shovel first and set out digging, and digging, and digging, filling the wheelbarrow ready for disposal on to the midden (this is a working farm, so if you don’t know what this is, google it!).

James then took over as shovel monkey, and this is where his height really helped.

I then took over to finish off the dig, and I cannot tell you how relieved I was to hear the noise of hitting the false bottom. While the boil was on the go, we hosed down the mash tun and all the used equipment, before heading off to the Tap & Cork in Horwich as Ben had to deliver a keg. This was an excuse to have a quick half of Wild Beer Tepache, get a couple of takeaway bottles and head to Sainsbury’s for a sandwich. James’ previous sandwich filling experience ensured he wasn’t disappointed here!

Upon returning to the brewery, things were hotting up. Steam was emanating from the vent pipe, and a glorious smell was in the air. BUT, there was something that we hadn’t come across at this stage. Hops. No hops at all yet, other than the happy vines in Ben’s yard.

Then Ben unleashed the hops. OMG, upon opening the fresh bags, the aroma entered your nostrils in the style of the old Bisto adverts. Chinook, Simcoe and Mosaic in that order. Each one distinct, each one amazing. How much are we using Ben? Literally a metric f*ck ton! 4.5kg of hops. Did I mention there were hops in this beer yet. James and I were in hop heaven with James commenting that he “would never tire of this smell”. I concurred.

The alarm reminder went, and it was time get the temperature down with the heat exchanger, before starting to add the hops. I started adding the hops and James then had the chance to show off his spooning skills this time, to stir in the hops to ensure they were all well coated to release the amazing oils and the magic. Again, we switched halfway to ensure we both had the full Rivington experience, before closing the lid on that delicious smell.

As it was now 5pm(ish), both James and I had to leave unfortunately, but not before Ben found time to take us to Tap & Cork again, with time to enjoy a pint before heading home. What beer did we drink? Well, it was the one we had been brewing all day, to be revealed later.

Ben returned to the brewery to complete the transfer to the FV, and the job was complete. What a great day with 2 good friends. We had banter, beers and the best bit was that all the readings throughout were spot on. We had done alright, expertly guided by Ben who remained calm all day despite having to put up with 2 people with no brewing experience and all the while being on standby as his wife is due to give birth imminently. Congratulations Ben, and good luck.

So, what beer have we brewed? If you haven’t already guessed, we have brewed the already legendary “Never Known Fog Like It”. How does this hit Jim’s brief though? A beer that has never poured in Manchester? Well, Ben will putting this one in cask, exclusively for the Independent Salford Beer Festival 2017. Both James and I were honoured that Ben allowed us in for this brew day, and we know it’s going to be a good one. I hope you all enjoy the fruits of our labour.

I – for one – know that I will!!! (Jim)

If you haven’t got this idea yet, there are some fabulous breweries bringing their A Game to this little Community Centre. To our little bash.

If you haven’t already got your tickets, don’t hang about. 80% gone. Click the link here. 

Don’t miss out!

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#ISBF4 Collab Brewday No 4 : Pig and Porter

For the 4th brewday for #ISBF4 we head back to Tunbridge Wells and Pig & Porter. This time, the #ISBF4 #EvilKegFilth maestro Chris headed South from his Black Country lair. For which we are truly grateful.

Take it away…..

ISBF brew-day Pig and Porter

The roots of this beer came out of the success of Mango Daiquiri at Berries, Beans and Beer (It was LUSH! Jim) . This was the second beer to kick, and when Jim gave me the thumbs up to approach Pig and Porter for an ISBF beer, I basically asked Sean “How big can we make Mango Daiquiri?” Err. About 9-9.5% maybe? He said. So there we had it. Beaut of an idea.

5:30. An ungodly hour for a “not at work” day….! Good job there was no beer involved last night……!! (There might have been…….)

Long way from Sean’s to the brewery. How he does this every day, is beyond me! Thanks for putting me up matey!!


So. Big mash in needed. 20 sacks of malt = 500kg in the mash tun. 19 pale, and one Munich. It was full!!

This is going to be one big beer!

As the kind of guy that I am, I also prepped tomorrows malt…. a mere 15 sacks of pale malt. Pffft.

Then off to the hop store to grab some hops for the boil. Mosaic. Centennial. Mandarina Bavaria and some Hallertau Magnum for bittering.

Meantime. Primordial radio was blaring away. Playing Chesney Hawkes and Aha…. WTAF???!! Have a word with yourselves!!!!

Wort to copper including a bit of sparge action.

As we already knew what we were brewing, this wasn’t a “what are we doing” kind of day. Indeed, Sean left us to it. By us, I mean me and Sean’s new brewery assistant, Mark. Who is a scientist. Which made for lots of fun testing and checking things. What’s the abv going to be? Checks with hydrometer and some playing around with numbers suggested around 10-10.5% abv. Wow!!

Before I knew it, running of the wort to the copper was commencing. That means hops! Eventually. Run off looked good. A good mid-dark wort was produced. Looked ace. Copper was about half full. This is going to be one strong beer!

Oh yeah. I dug the mash out. Actually my first “proper” dig out. No one is going to pay me for doing this as a job. I was proper knackered. 500kg wet malt is probably about half as much again in weight…… That’s my excuse anyway 😂

At some point, Sean disappeared and came back with sausage. Sorry for the lack of photo. But it was a good sausage buttie. Thanks Sean!

I got the frankly brilliantly ace job of adding the hops. Which meant weighing them up, breaking them up, bagging them ready for thebatches to be added.

Hops 1 @ Boil Magnum 12.5 300
Hops 2 @ 50 mins Mosaic 1000
Hops 3 @ 50 mins Mandarina Bavaria 1000
@ 60 mins Centennial 2500
Hops 4 @ 60 mins Mosaic 5 4000
@ 60 mins Mandarina Bavaria 2500

After the boil, there was the run off into the fermenter. Balancing the temperature at around 19 degrees meant a bit of fiddling around with the flow rate and the cold feed to the cooling plate. Yeast was pitched at this point, whilst we were running off into the fermenter. No worries, up the ladder again I went…..

Just time for a quick burger and a can of Whispering Bob, then I gave a hand bringing some bags of malt that had been delivered up to the mezzanine and their storage location.

Job done, off we went for a quick pint and the train home. A long day, and I was ready for my bed by the time I got home to Wolf Town.

Big thanks to Sean and Jacqui for putting me up, and to Mark for his assistance in the brewing. Here’s hoping that the final beer is as ace as it looked and smelled when I left it.

Big respect to Chris for going all the way to Kent and to Sean, Jacqui & Mark for allowing us to come and play on their kit!

A Mango Daiquiri DIPA. At 10.5% abv. There’s gonna be some fun that #EvilKegFilth room!

Want some of this? You’d better get clicking on this link to grab some of the few remaining tickets!

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#ISBF4 – #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Match 1 : Pig and Porter & Rivington Brewing Co – The Brewday

uOne of the thing about the ISBF #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Collab series is its unpredictability. It is a random draw – inspired by the FA Cup draws of my youth – that could pair anyone from each “hat”.

When I ask the breweries if they would take part, it’s in the knowledge that they could end up at the other end of the country. With someone they’ve never met. The one certainty is, that each brewery is damn good.

I wouldn’t have asked them to take part otherwise. Something that actually holds for each brewery invited to St Sebastian’s.

Pairing Pig & Porter with Rivington felt right. Two breweries from different ends of the country, brewing stunningly good beers, working together. And when I heard what they had planned – a beer style that I’m yet to try – I was delighted. Something different.

So, this morning, Ben (from Rivington) found himself in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. With Sean Ayling, Mashing. Boiling. Fermenting. For our little beer bash.

(The colour of the mash bed should give you a clue…..)

Almost a half ton of malt. Nice and roasty, warming. And big. I do love a big dark beer…. The word “sensational” was used about the mash aroma. Bloody hell was I jealous!

With an addition of some juicy berries this keg of delicious darkness is going to be Chocolatey, Roasty – nice and roasty – and (maybe) a little fruity tartness from those berries. This will be my first Baltic Porter.

At approximately 9% abv. Something different. Which is the point. Because, we want YOU to try something different. Something you’re unlikely to try somewhere else locally.

I. Can’t. Wait. To. Try. This. Beer.

To get it first? Click here and grab a ticket. Because, if you don’t, you might not get to try this. And that would be some

Listen to Clay. He knows.

A HUGE thank you to Sean (gracious host) and Ben (long distance traveller) for agreeing to do this. We’re bloody pleased they did.

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#ISBF4 – #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Match 1 : Pig and Porter & Rivington Brewing Co

The genesis of the #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side idea is lost in the mists of time. That and – no doubt – several Imperial Stouts. The idea of a series of organised collaboration brews was (I think) that of my Craft Comrade Jeff. He of the never ending Leave Card. The idea of a 5-a-side and random draw was hugely inspired. And therefore mine 😂😂😂.

Having had an East v West theme last year – a continuance of the idea inspired by my favourite period of English history – The War of The Roses – I decided to sixty the axis.

For all of my bugle blowing about Northern brewers and the undoubtedly excellent beer that they make, I was determined to have more Southern brewers involved at ISBF this year. But not just ANY.

So I decided – in that vein – to shift the axis for the #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side. Tilt it in a southerly direction. And invited 5 superb breweries from South of the Greater Manchester area.

The draw was made at The Brink on #ISBF4 launch night and produced a series of mouth watering pairings. Including this one.

For those from outside of Bolton and – more recently – Manchester, Rivington have been building a reputation for bold and well executed beers. Beers full of flavour. Precisely the kind of news brewery we love here at ISBF.

Sean Ayling at Pig and Porter has been producing fabulous beers from the get go down in Kent.  Both in cask and keg. From the moment both he and the lovely Jacqui turned up at St Sebastian’s on the Saturday last year, I just knew I wanted them involved at #ISBF4.

I’ll leave it there.

So. The plan. Ask the brewers a few questions. Let them introduce themselves and talk about beer. So. Without further waffle (or, ado) I give you…

Sean Ayling of Pig and Porter

Hello Sean.

Introduce yourself and the brewery : – Robin (Wright) and I started Pig and Porter in 2012 around a kitchen table with a selection of bottled beers and some excellent home made burgers.  We knew we wanted to do something based around food and beer but we weren’t quite sure what. We hit on becoming an event catering business that brewed it’s own beer  We never meant to own a brewery but rather planned to cuckoo brew beers especially for events. We focused on the beer when we moved into a previously defunct brewery in 2013, sharing the site for 15 months before I jacked in my day job in 2015 and came on board full time.     

What/who inspired you to start brewing?

This one’s easy. Poverty – I used to sell incontinence pads for a living and the company I worked for was taken over by a FTSE-100 company. Pretty much the first thing they did was  cut the reps’ bonuses. I found myself about £400 a month worse off and decided to take up homebrewing to save money.  I quickly found lots of help and support from the likes of Evin O’Riordain (Kernel), Eddie Gadd (Ramsgate Brewery) and Kelly Ryan.  

What is the ethos of Pig and Porter Brewery? 

We simply want to share our beers with people who want to #drinkbetter

What are the benefits of brewing collaboratively?

Brewing can be an incredibly insular occupation. It’s all to easy to succumb to a blinkered approach. Collaboration brews give you the opportunity to break the mould and learn from your peers. I’ve never not learned something from a collaboration and I don’t expect I ever will.

We are incredibly grateful that you agreed to take part in our #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Collab Series. You’ve been to ISBF, How do you think ISBF compares to other festivals you’ve been to.

It manages to be intimate without being exclusive and, to borrow a phrase from by business partner, “up it’s own fundament”

What was your reaction when you found out you were paired with Rivington Brewing Co?

I’ll be absolutely honest (because I am) I had to Google them but  the good thing about that, is there are no preconceptions. In any event, they’re only in the “draw” because they’re well regarded so no worries.

What inspired the beer?
It’s a style we’d both been meaning to brew but never got around to.
What did each brewer add to the recipe?
A different perspective
Cask v Keg. Thoughts?
For me, it mainly comes down to serving temperature, I prefer it around 8c so it is generally keg for me but I will say this, the best two pints of Red Spider Rye I’ve ever had (and I prefer it on keg) have been on cask.

What are we to expect from the collab beer?
Darkness, fruitiness and weight of alcohol.
You’ve collaborated with a number of breweries around the country, it’s there anyone else you’d really like to brew with? 
Of course, Buxton are absolutely top of the list but also Kernel, Cloudwater, Hawkshead, Lost and Grounded, Burning Sky. The list goes on.

Ben Stubbs of Rivington Brewing Co

Hello Ben.

What/who inspired you to start brewing?

The lack of “Craft Beer” in our rural Lancashire, the beer scene locally was predominately lager with some poorly kept real ale.  After spending some time travelling to NZ & America I wanted to come back and get into brewing.  After a trip to Asheville in North Carolina I wanted to re-create something similar at home where good beer was available everywhere!

What is the ethos of Rivington Brewing Co
Enjoy what we’re doing, don’t take ourselves too seriously, continue to learn & experiment, and most importantly remind ourselves that its just beer at the end of the day – something to be enjoyed with pals.

What are the benefits of brewing collaboratively?

Loads!  Learning new methods and procedures, using different equipment, trying new ingredients and styles, and most importantly meeting some really cool people and having fun

We are incredibly grateful that you agreed to take part in our #EvilKegFilth 5-a-side Collab Series. You’ve been to ISBF, How do you think ISBF compares to other festivals you’ve been to. 
It’s like no other, amazing new one off beers, relaxed atmosphere, unique location – feels more like a load of mates meeting up somewhere and having a few beers together rather than a typical festival.

What was your reaction when you found out you were paired with Pig & Porter?

Really pleased, tried a few of Sean’s beers, and they’re ace – seen them in quite a few places and love the branding.  Really excited to head on down to Tunbridge Wells too!

What inspired the beer? 
Something we have never done, something Sean had always wanted to do.

What did each brewer add to the recipe?
So far it’s all Sean, at the time of writing I’ve not had a proper chance to look through the first draft of the recipe.

Cask v Keg. Thoughts?
Think this beer will be all keg.

What are you expecting from the final beer?
Should be fantastic, depth of flavours, something quite different!

Who else would you love to collaborate with?

People who have really inspired us locally; Chorlton, Thirst Class, Track.
We at ISBF Control are REALLY looking forward to the fruits of this match up!
And the FIRST place you will get to try it, is at St Sebastian’s Community Centre on 19th October. Remaining tickets

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#ISBF4 – The Kindness of (former) Strangers

Independent Salford Beer Festival 2017 logo

From the first tweet following my coercion into organising the earliest of these celebrations, the kindness that has been extended to me and mine has been heartwarming. And humbling.

From the various offers to help volunteer (many), to design (Darren & Andy), to beer donation (Malcolm – Five Towns), I was overwhelmed. Kind of the origin of my much derided maxim #BeerPeopleAreGoodPeople. Nobody – least of all me – had an idea how this would go. Some said having a beer festival at a venue like St Sebastian’s couldn’t work. It was “too awkward to get to”.

Well. Four years later…..

Four years ago, the premise was simple. I write a blog about beer. People seemed to like the beers I wrote about. So I got beers from those breweries. And people seemed to like it. We may have thrown away a lake of beer, but that was normal – so I was told. We sold out three sessions. We raised over £5k.

We walked away with a new host of friends.

The next year, I increased the beer load by 25%. We added / subtracted breweries. I did 8 or so collabs with some of my favourite breweries. We sold more tickets – increasing the capacity – and sold out 2 of the sessions. Even with all that extra beer, we threw away HALF the amount of 2014. The drinkers loved it even more. We raised £5.3k. Vital money for St Sebastian’s.

The next year, I asked the genius that is Andy Heggs to read the lyrics to the Ewan McColl classic “Dirty Old Town” – written about industrial Salford – and give me a new logo. A new identity. And with a thing of such beauty, he made me cry. They weren’t the only tears last year. But that image still brings a smile to my face.

And as for that little cat….

I wanted the bands to have their own room. Away from the “main” bar. But what to do. That room needed beer. And so, the #EvilKegFilth room was born.

And the beer all sold out in that bar. By 3pm on Saturday.

It was supposed to be the final Independent Salford Beer Festival. The end of an error. I’d had enough. And we needed to rebuild, the entire extended family. But already – on the “final” Saturday afternoon – there was pressure being brought to bear to do it again. By people I respect.

And the drinkers – many of whom we now counted as “friends” – sang their praises. Many – literally – begged us to do it again.

We couldn’t…..

But….. “ANDY……. THAT LOGO…..? Can we…. ” The colours. They are personal. Intensely so. And Andy worked his magic. It’s  the prettiest yet. We HAD to print the T-Shirts in colour.  And it makes for a stunning T.

I gave in. With conditions. And the band of brothers and sisters stepped up. And helped carry the burden.

But we needed something to change. Again. And the answers were quite simple. Inject the #EvilKegFilth range with more. Just more. 150% more beer.

But why did I decide to do it again?

Honestly? That’s pretty much down to the  comments below, which I recently re-read. They showed me just how MUCH this bash was loved.

These commenters know that this do isn’t in a Listed building. It’s not arty. It’s not “up itself”. It’s just beer. Great beer. Served by simply the friendliest and best volunteers. With love. It’s a friendly little do is this.

Read the comments. They tell you more than I ever could.

These people have helped us this year to record ticket sales. Let’s sell them all. This Community Centre could do with the cash.

Their stories :

“There are bigger festivals. There are trendier festivals. But are they better? No. Simply put, this is THE best festival. End of.” Alex. (May 2017)

“What a beer festival should be. Great atmosphere, with unforgettable special editions and collaborations.” Will (May 2017)

“Superb festival offering excellent beers, very relaxed, not too packed and full of great beer people. Pity it’s the last…..” Dennis (Oct 2016)

“What a top festival. Lovely friendly people. Top beers – most new for the festival – St Sebastian’s, you’ve done us proud…” Colin (Oct 2016)

“Shame it’s the last one…..” Des (Oct 2016)

There are more. They are both heartwarming and humbling. What we have done – and continue to do – is really simple.

Great beers – obviously. Comfort (I simply REFUSE to overfill it). Friendliness. Great home cooked food. & Fun.

And as I say to the volunteers every single year – the last thing I say. “If you can’t enjoy THIS…..”

Do you get the picture?

Tickets via this link, last time I checked, there were VERY few on Saturday lunchtime left!

Go get em!

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