IndyMan, “THE” Beer Festival?

Phew, what a weekend, two glorious afternoon sessions at the first Independent Manchester Beer Convention or IndyMan as it is more affectionately known.

IndyMan was always going to be special, it was groundbreaking, the first of it’s kind and in my view at least an event that strove from the start to examine everything about the average British beer fest, pull out all the best bits and attempt to put the whole shebang together into the perfect beer extravaganza.

So did they pull it off?

There were so many things about this festival that made it such an exceptional event, for starters the venue even before you got through the doors was stunning. An imposing example of Victorian grandeur. Almost scary, conjuring visions of horror movie sets and lunatic asylums of years gone by. A living reminder of how our own class structure has changed over a hundred and six years, with first and second class male, plus a separate ladies entrance. Inside was no different as you are transported back in time, little of the interior having changed in all that time. Winding tiled corridors, steam and sauna rooms, vast ceilinged pool areas lined with individual cubicles and high seated balconies for spectators.

I learned to swim in a place just like this (no, not in 1906) and it held so many memories. The fear of swimming all the way over there (points) a whole width, the first triumph at actually making it and gradually proudly moving on to earn my swimming badges. Now I was standing in a pool exactly like that one from all those years ago, not filled with water of course but something I now prefer much, much more, BEER, how cool is that!!!.

Brewdog were in attendance too. Normally banished from all but the coolest festivals in the land, here they had, in a typical Brewdog stylee, their very own bar, cooler than an extra cold cool thing yes?

Better still Brewdog Manchester-Mini also hosted two (or more) pop up tasting sessions where lucky punters were treated to two new bottle releases, San Diego Scotch Ale (a whisky aged Scotch Ale made with Ballast Point rum soaked raisins, which was one of the stand out beers of the weekend for me and another absolute beauty the latest in the Abstrakt range AB:11 an Imperial Black Barley wine which again was absolutey delicious.

Pop up tastings were not limited to here alone of course as there were several others featuring more breweries spread over the weekend along with food and beer pairing sessions, there were talks and seminars too including the much anticipated “What the hell is craft beer” debate with speakers from all across the beer spectrum in action. Sadly I missed this (video coming soon I believe) but was lucky enough to attend a pretty exclusive tasting session with none other than Kjetil Jikiun (the bearded giant), head brewer from the awesome Nรธgne รธ..

An experience I’ll remember for a long time as he’s such a lovely host, as well as being a brilliant brewer and generally a top bloke.

The food was pretty awesome too with a range of great beer food available in the cask beer hall over the weekend including the new range of pies by genius pie makers Great North Pie Co, evenings only sadly.

We also had to name but a few, sumptuous slow cooked pork from the Fire and Salt Barbecue, a range of beautifully zingy curries from Sindhoor and a range of ultra popular dogs from Dirty Dogs if the queues on Saturday are anything to go by, these guys no how to griddle a sausage (ooh-err), look at the size of this monster!

Beer, I’ve not really mentioned it much thus far but as you’d expect the beer list was of the finest order and catered for all tastes. The cask room had a range of (surprise-surprise) cask ales, cider and even gueuze all situated on a room wide bar which changed as the weekend went on, this meant that although you may have been disappointed if you’d missed a particular special beer, there was always another there to take its place.

The other smaller bars were all situated in what I’d assume used to be the main pool area and this was where the majority of brewers were on hand to pour their beers in person and chat to punters in real time, if you’d read my post on Friday on “making the connection“, this is the one particular aspect of IndyMan that was most important in my opinion.

As a drinker you’ll remember the conversations had here and be able to put a face to a beer for want of better words. For the brewer to it was a brilliant way to get first hand feedback on the beers they’d presented in a way not normally possible on such a large scale.

Favourite beers of the festival? Wow, that’s a tricky one as they were all really, really good and it’s so hard to pull any out for special attention, but I personally think these stood out:

  • Bitches Brewing – Chocolate, Vanilla and Chilli Stout
  • Magic Rock – Tequila barrel aged Cannonball
  • Lovibonds -Sour Grapes
  • Quantum – Blood Orange Tea Pale
  • Camden – Unfiltered Hells
  • Tiny Rebel – Hadouken
  • Brewdog – San Diego Scotch Ale
  • Wild Beer – Modus Operandi
  • Summer Wine Brewery – Calico Jack and Aoraki Red
  • Ilkley – Green Goddess

Seriously though, there were sooo many fantastic beers on show here, if I’ve not mentioned yours here and I drank it, trust me it was delicious, I didn’t have a beer that was anything other than brilliant all weekend. Looking at that beer list again now, I feel slightly sad that I couldn’t have sampled more.

So, was it “THE” festival, a true benchmark of how beer festivals should be?

In truth I’m not sure it can be really, although it clearly ticks lots of boxes for this drinker. The venue is pretty much unique and not everyone has access to such a grand resource, especially with most festivals operating on much lower budgets. Having brewers pouring beer direct in such numbers too is obviously a non starter in all but specialist events, time is at a premium for these guys who already work 7 day weeks on the whole. If they were pouring beer all the time who else is going to make it.. It could be something to consider locally though albeit on a smaller scale?

If there is one thing this event did really well though that could be replicated over and over all across the land is how everyone involved made the whole thing just plain enjoyable. Because all tastes were catered for regardless of beer dispense method preference, the whole thing was a just happy go lucky joyous treat to the senses where the aromas and flavour of beer was the most important thing, no petty arguments just fun.

It may not be “THE” beer festival in everyones eyes yet, but it’s certainly the one I’ll be looking forward to most for the next twelve months. Thanks again to everyone I met, chatted to and shared beers with, Cheers

Update, check out The Beercasts IMBC12 view here

Leigh at The Good Stuff’s fine take on events

There’s more at Ale GD

and still more from Simon at Reluctant Scooper

and finally from Tandleman one of the craft debate delegates.

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39 thoughts on “IndyMan, “THE” Beer Festival?

    • It was the first beer I tasted on Friday and was really good Glyn, fine work, now brew more and get it in my local ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Cheers Tania, it was really nice to meet you at last, yeah we could do with pre-sale options on those next year tickets ๐Ÿ˜‰

  1. Great write-up, Phil. Thanks for the sweet, sweet love!

    For the record, I love Hadouken also. As a gaming (as well as beer) geek, the name and pump clip were more than enough to get me to try it when we first got it at Port Street. Luckily it turned out to be well tasty, to

    • No worries Jamie, good to see you again my friend, hope you got plenty of time to sample a few as well as serve the multitudes

      It’s funny you saying that about Hadouken, I was drawn to it for exactly the same reason, who’s special move was it, can you remember??

    • Cheers Peter, glad you think so with your experience of fests. Shame I missed the debate, looking forward to the video I believe is on its way, was it a good laugh or a hard fought battle if differing opinions?

      • Hi Phil. It was rather less inconclusive than you might imagine. I was surprised to be booed when I was introduced, as I like to think of myself as pretty open mined to the development of an alternative drinking culture. If Colin Valentine was there, his head would have been on a pole no doubt. But that’s the kind of knockabout I like. I’ll be writing this up myself – maybe later today – but I’d say that a consensus was kind of reached, though BrewDogJames seemed to me to have an agenda that didn’t directly relate to the points raised by Jonny who chaired it (curated it. Is that a craft term?)

        Loads of people came up to me afterwards to say kind things, which was nice. I’ll be concentrating more on the event than the debate when I write though. I’m probably not a million miles from your position.

        • Not good to be booed Peter, although I’d like to think it was good natured, but all the same. A few folks have said similar things about BrewDog James to be honest, so you’re probably right there.

          I’ll check your post now and link it in, sorry about WordPress losing your comment, it lost the chaser too which is why i’ve taken so long to respond.

          Cheers

      • Hardly a hard fought battle. The thing that struck me was the rather poor peformance by James Watt. Apart from some rather silly grandstanding at the start, this self styled leader of the “craft ber revolution” really had nothing original to say at all. It was just the same old schtick which we’ve all heard 100 times before – apart from his off the cuff definition of a UK craft brewer – less than 1 million barrels a year, all malt and whole hops. This manges to include virtually all of the family brewers but excludes, for example, Kernel, who use a lot of pelletised hops I’m told. What a hoot! Speaking around afterwards it was clear that he’d not made a very good impression at all (apart from with the Brewdog fanboy crowd of course).

        Apart from that it was broad, but inevitable, consensus that “craft beer” is largely undefinable. There’s a surprise.

        • I think you’re right about JW, too much self exuberance is eating away at reputation which is a massive shame as they make some stunning beer, good job we had some level heads on the panel eh ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Looking forward to seeing it all unfold

  2. Cracking post Phil, some great photos in there too – I was at the evening session, and for some reason my pictures were mostly blurry! I’m guessing it was the…low light levels in the venue. Yeah, that was it ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Haha cheers Rich, I must admit I nearly took a camera but in the end just took as many as possible on iPhone that mostly turned out ok. Looked really atmospheric at night, quite jealous I didn’t get to an evening session.

  3. Couldn’t have said it better. One of the most enjoyable days drinking that I have had in a long, long time!

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  5. I didnโ€™t have a beer that was anything other than brilliant all weekend

    Wow. You really did enjoy it, didn’t you? Nice write up. But I have to say that I’ve never been to a festival where all the beer was “less than brilliant” and I found that, in this respect, IndyManCon was like any other. There was good and so-so beer. The venue was good, though.

    • Ha, ok Tyson I’m busted, I may have slightly over enthused there, but only slightly and I suppose equally it depends on what you, I, or anyone else drank as to whether that statement works.

      I did have some really brilliant beer, some exceptional, especially in the keg room as that was my own main focus, some were better than others in both areas but none were poor which is what I was trying to avoid saying in the post.

      I’ve been to too many fests where I’ve tried a beer and wanted to get rid of it fast as I couldn’t face another drop.
      Cheers

      • I probably drank more in the keg room, too. I have to say that, unlike you, I found the Modus Operandi really rather dull (especially after it was bigged up by the brewer). For me two of the best beers there were Camden Rud Boy Lager and King Crimson.

        • There were so many good beers John that I suppose it was unfair to list any really. I think Modus Operandi probably stood out as being a new one from a new to watch out for.
          The Camden brews were all good that I tasted,the King Crimson was another favourite now you mention it, I wish we saw more of them up north.

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      • Everyone needs to make sure this festival gets a lot of love… a) it deserves it, b) we want them to do it again, c) and hopefully even inspire others too!

        • Absolutely, count me in, festivals like this are the way forward and in time I think would change the perception of what beer festivals are like.
          Lose the beer and sandals stereotype that like it or not is still out there. Cheers Ivan

    • I had to cut that down as three were two lads at one side, real shame really as a full shot through both rooms would have been cool.

  7. Good write-up, and I agree that it was an incredibly enjoyable event – the USP was being able to talk to the brewers directly about their beers. Sour Grapes was the stand-out beer for me. Sign me up for IMBC13!

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