this year I was once again offered the chance to attend the Independent Manchester Beer Convention (or Conference?) in, surprisingly, Manchester. Here are some memories of what I, and Tash, found.
Firstly, lets make this clear - I bumped into, on the train, two gents from the Australian state of Lougabarougah, or Loughborough in Leicestershire, as its more commonly known. I'd seen one take a bottle of porter out of his bag for a pre festival snaffle, and asked if they were going to Indy Man. They were, Rob and Justin one of whom runs the Hoptimism beer shop. So I offered to let them share a taxi with me and Tash since I had been before. It would, I said, cost about £6.50. Arriving at Chorlton Baths, it transpired I should have asked for Victoria baths. In Chorlton on Medlock. On Hathersage Road. A quick trip through Moss Side later with taxi driver Daniel, and we were 40 minutes and £15.00 down. Sorry Rob, Justin, Tash, and myself.
Once in things improved. I took Tash into the main room to buy some tickets - £1.00 each and in my experience between £1.50 and £2.00 a third. This meant that most, indeed almost all, of the beer, was expensive. However, most, indeed almost all, was keg, strong, and unique.
We started at the Quantum brewery stand. Our first two beers were their Gose for Tash and a beer for me called Gin and Juice, a 6.5% sour orange peel and I think elderflower gin flavoured wheat beer. These two thirds came to £3.50. The tone was set. Mainly, if not exclusively, because both beers were excellent. We enjoyed them outside amonsgt the tents and food stalls in warm sunshine.
Inside next we tried an IMBC collab with Northern Monk called Quinceessential. This was a quince IPA at 6.0% and was very easy drinking. So far, I had tasted two beers at 6.0% or more. This, I was to learn, was far from unusual at IMBC.
A trip into the far bar followed including a taste of and a third of the Tilquin Draft Gueze. It was here that we bumped into Rob and Justin and their friend, still talking to us, and supping a third of the bottled Grande Gueze at an eye watering £5.00 a third. I also tried or rather supped a third of Hawkshead Sundown red ale at a "meager" 4.5% and some Chorlton Farmhouse IPA at 7.0%. We sat down with a photographer and a guy from Lancashire called Mike who was really enthusiastic about the styles on offer. Tash also went to try a third of the strong Thistly Cross dry cider, and talked to the who ran the firm.
From this pint on, its probably best if I try and remember enough of the beers I tried to list them. So, with that in mind, other beers tried included:
Zapato and the Beak - Little Leeds Pale, and Raspberry sour
A Bilberry saison which isn't obviously on the list
Almasty Imperial Stout (10%)
Tuatar NUI (BIG) IPA
Whilst supping and wandering we saw a few Sheffielders - the guy with the name and his friend from the Bath hotel, Sean Clarke from Beer Central, the lass form Mashtun and meow who might be called Chloe (but probably isn't!), Stuart from Magic Rock Brewing (who is at least a Sheffielder by association, and the manager of the Sheffield Tap. We also met up with Jules and Will from Hop Hideout, who were my friendly and supportive hosts last year.
We also went for a sit down on a green-bag in the dark end room and listened to a DJ set whilst snaffling our pork pies and sarnies, and supping amazing LSD (Little Sour Delight, a young sour at 6.8% from Lervig in Norway, along with their Lucky Jack IPA. This was a lovely space and a great opportunity to wind down from the pressure of trying to sample as many beers as we could before 16.30.
At a point after that, things became a little less good. With two tokens left I discovered the bars weren't serving and so I headed to the ticket booth to get my money back, and was told they couldn't do that. I have never come across that at a beer festival before. When I protested I was advised to go and get a canned beer to take out - they, admirably, canned draught beer for supping that day but it was 4 tokens. I was going to give my tokens, which I had paid for, to the guy from Zapato but someone mentioned I could use them next year - so still have them. I don't, however, understand why I couldn't exchange them for cash.
That was the main downside if am honest, along with a lack of cask beers. A guy behind the cask bar said that not enough was sold the year before so they had to give it away. Whilst I understand this is not a viable sales pitch, its still a shame to see so few (10 I think) cask beers on sale from such an extensive list - the link to which is here.
Despite the above this was another excellent showcase of a wide range of UK and International beers - whether you define them as Craft or otherwise. The beer is expensive, but pushes the boundaries of taste and your expectations in a wonderful and excellent quality way - we didn't try a bad one. The venue, as mentioned last time, is outstanding, and the atmosphere was great.
A thoroughly enjoyable festival!