To all intents and purposes, October used to be a pretty boring month. A safe month. A well-behaved haven of quiet nights in and abstinence sandwiched between the laid-back decadence of summer and the frenzied run-up to Christmas. But no longer. October has become the most showy of months - a properly flamboyant, look-at-me-and-all-I-have-to-offer-you kind of month. To wit: October, a month during which I once gave up alcohol entirely, now boasts a startling range of tempting activities just waiting to part you from the cash you really should be saving up for Aunty Gertrude's new Scrabble bag, and lure you from that wagon that everyone knows you really should be on.
The Manchester Literature Festival and the Manchester Food and Drink Festivals have been regular October fixtures for the last few years, and it is with much relief that Mr Liz notes that the Didsbury Beer Festival will once again be taking place a stone's throw from his house during the last weekend of this newly troublesome month. But now, a new temptation of which we had hitherto been unaware: the SIBA Great Northern Beer Festival is to take place at the Mercure Piccadilly in central Manchester between the 27th and 29th October; in other words, the same days as the Didsbury Beer Festival, leading over-excited boys to carefully write in their diary "beer festival x 2" for three consecutive days. And then perform a small happy dance of sheer disbelieving joy.
The SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers Association *knowledgeable face*) Festival looks a corker, with around 250 cask and 100 bottled beers available for thirsty Mancunians. A record 80 brewers have entered for this year's competition for the SIBA North Region Beer Competition 2011, the judging for which takes place during the day of the 27th before the doors are opened to the public at 4pm, although as 250 casks of ale apparently equates to 18000 pints, anyone worrying that the judges will swipe the lot can rest easy. Despite being stored in a specially installed cellar set up just for the weekend, the beer must be drunk within three days and the festival organisers have therefore set the entrance fee at just £3, including a £1 refundable glass desposit; they clearly don't realise that there is little chance of leftover beer now Mr Liz and his cronies have got wind of it.
The festival runs from 4pm - 10.30pm on Thursday 27th, and (more worryingly) from noon till 10.30 on the Friday and Saturday. Anyone yet to be convinced should click on their website, and if you can resist the picture of the fifties fox promising you beers "all Northern and wi' a proper 'ead" you are a stronger person than I...