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Indy Man Beer Con - it was THAT good

I think the last few articles I’ve written regarding beer festivals have always mentioned how bored I’ve become of some of the annual ones;  in the same old routine, same locations, same problem with keeping enough decent beer for the people who could only make it at the weekend to try. So, like so many others I’ve seen discussing it online, I was pretty darn excited when I heard about the Independent Manchester Beer Convention.

It just so happened to fall in beautifully with a week off work I’d booked much longer ago and so I decided to head for the Friday afternoon Lite session just to be one of the first through the door.

Any reservations I was having about the event when the adverts first arrived (too many people were selling it to me as a celebration of “craft”) were dismissed once the location was announced as the Victoria Baths. Being born and bred in the Manchester region, I’ll admit the building was not one I knew much about but others did and, after speaking to them, I knew it’d be right up my street. I wasn’t disappointed. The fact that it has remained so untouched and mostly intact was terrific. I can also be a bit of a geek for grand architecture and spending the first hour of the festival, with a relevant drink, exploring the building was pure joy. I enjoyed descending into the pool to the keg bars but equally enjoyed having a beer high in the benches or even in one of the changing stations.

(Drinking in the cellar; in the ping pong room; and in a changing booth)
Then there was the beer list. Never have I ever been to a beer festival where I’ve had to be so careful about what I was ordering, only because I had a four hour limit. Because never before have I been to a festival where I could have returned with ANY beer from the list knowing it would be a good choice. I tried to start sensibly, staying in the cask room for over an hour to resist the lure of everything on keg, but once I’d had Bitches Brewing’s Chocolate & Chilli Stout I knew where I’d be staying.

Then there were the people; volunteers, brewers and punters alike. No sullen faces. No lonely drinkers scouring the list with a frown on their face from the corner. Very FEW backpacks. But a lot of very happy beer lovers smiling, laughing, toasting. The only frown I received was an ironic sigh from a Magic Rock brewer disappointed that I’d chosen a Nǿgne over his beer. I actually felt a little guilty… (But come on guys, I’ve put a LOT of money in your pockets this past year.)

THEN there was the food. Good beer deserves good food. Great beer deserves a great selection of food and honestly Dirty Dogs and Fire and Salt BBQ occasionally turned my attention away from the beer.

It was just perfect. The branded souvenir glass was just an added bonus. The way I geeked out over the tiny branded tokens was embarrassing, but it’s so much better than some little bingo type card. I wish I’d booked the Friday late session too, just to have experienced some of the talks and other events, as well as work my way across the rest of the bar. But at least I was left wanting more next year.

(Brewdog Room; our final beers including Sunturnbrew; a lonely third of Kernel Red Brick)
Choosing beers of the event is a very difficult call. Forced to choose then, as a big smoked beer fan, the NǿgneSunturnbrew probably wins, and just happened to be the one I rounded my time off with. Though the Bitches Brewing, Magic Rock Cannonball Tequila and BrewDog San Diego Scotch Ale were outstanding as well. I’ll stop short of making us all sick and saying ‘everyone was a winner’ but the truth is that you could submit any of the beers available at this festival into a regular one and they would probably win Champion Beer of the Festival. But ‘spoilt for choice’ is never a bad thing. If they don’t bring it back next year, then I’m ripping it off and doing it myself.  Though I’d never be able to make it this good.  


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