The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

A student life: chair of the Craft Beer society

We chat to Josh Hodge, the University of Manchester’s biggest craft beer enthusiast

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Josh Hodge could not be described as someone who doesn’t take his hobbies seriously: the second year student is not only the chair of the university’s Craft Beer Society, but he also works in a craft beer bar and is planning on linking his Ancient History and Archeology degree to a dissertation on Egyptian beer making.

While the extent of my beer knowledge stretches to a pint of Stella at our local — maybe even a San Miguel if I’m feeling extravagant — Josh’s knowledge of beer is clearly much more extensive, a passion that led him to running the society as Chair, while only being in the second year of his degree.

“We were only founded last year by two students who have now left, me and two of my housemates took over the society. Originally we just found it in the Societies’ Fair last year, and I like beer so I thought let’s give this a go!”

“Basically I organise the events, so we do brewery tours and tasting events, or meeting at the pub, it’s basically me who does pretty much everything.”

For a society that revolves around drinking, I want to know if this is something that requires as much dedication as the sports teams, because the idea of competitively tasting fine ale all afternoon on Wednesdays sounds like most students would be going for gold.

“We’re not that regular, because it can be quite an expensive hobby at times when we go out, but we try and keep the prices down, like when we have a tasting event, you buy a ticket for 10 pounds and then you get to have 15 to 20 quids worth of beers out of it.”

His dedication is very apparent when talking about the Craft Beer Society events that really enable students to access an expensive hobby otherwise reserved for the world of the Northern Quarter.

“Yeah, we have a deal with Font, who have really good ale, and the general manager loves us because he loves the beer more than the cocktails! So he’s always happy when we come along and he gets to talk about the beer as well, so he gives us a bunch of beer for a lower price, which gives people a chance to try a lot of different styles of beer.”

I wonder if living in the beer capital of the North, where there are lots of independent bars and micro-breweries, is a reason for having the society at the University of Manchester.

“Yeah, we keep it mainly local,” he said, “as Manchester is the second best city in the country for beer, nothing else comes close to the amount of breweries we have got around here. One of the breweries in Manchester, Cloudwater, was awarded fifth best brewer in the world, so it’s a very good brewer and they’re one of the ones we went and visited last year, and it’s really great to see their beers.”

He has obviously put some thought into his ‘Desert Island’ beer — something that he would be happy to sip on forever more — which happens to be Lupoloid, from Beaver Town Brewery, a rare beer from London. These questions have been seriously mulled over and deliberated on through the multiple events that he runs through the year, encouraging regular society members and newbies to try local and international craft ale.

“It’s a pricey hobby for sure, which is why we can’t do it that often, we had about three or four events last semester and we’ll be doing one in a couple of weeks this semester!”

“We normally get around 20 or so people coming to these events, and the brewery tours tend to be a bit less as most people just want to come and try the beers whereas the ones that come to the brewery tours are the ones that really want to learn about the beer and want to know more about how its made and things, that’s what the brewery tour is for, to show you each step in the process of how different breweries do it differently.”

I wonder if his role as chair means that he struggles to find the balance between life at university and his large role in the society, but he assures me that quite the opposite is true.

“Originally it was just a hobby, but now I’ve started doing some independent work and am going to tie it to my dissertation in the end, so I’m doing ancient Egyptian beer and how it’s used and how they in a sense brew different things which is a lot more than we use it for nowadays. So it is trying [to incorporate it] into my degree as well.”

I wonder how big the commitment is to the society, but he claims that’s it’s really not much hassle at all. “I work in a craft beer bar as well now as of a few months ago just in town, so it ties into my work life obviously! So it’s not affected my uni life yet!”

Despite his extensive knowledge of rare New York ales, Josh wants to assure me that they’re not an elitist group of beer drinkers. “We don’t look down on those who like a pint of English bitter, or the common lagers. If that’s what people like, that’s cool. What we’re there for are for people to try something new, or to learn more about the beer, which is why we get different people at tasting events and brewery tours.”

So if you fancy an american stout or maybe even a pint of something more local, the Facebook page is UoMCraftBeerSoc, and Josh will be there to answer any possible questions you could have on craft beer!

Name: Josh Hodge

Degree: Second year Ancient History and Archeology student

Hometown: Leeds

Best bit: “Drinking the beer!”

Worst bit:  “I’ve not had any negatives, I mean I just get to organise the events that I would turn up to anyway, it’s just more a case of now that I’m in charge, I get to ask for which beers I want there, so there isn’t really a negative for me!”

Favourite craft beer: “That’s a tough one, I guess it depends on the style, I can name the best beer I’ve ever had but it might not be my favourite, but the best beer I’ve ever had would be Serpent’s Stout by Lost Abbey, which is a hard to find American beer, getting it in the UK can be quite tough, but that’s probably the best beer I’ve ever had, but in terms of favourite, I don’t really have one.”