A couple of months ago, I posted about the issue of whether beer festivals are changing. The ‘traditional’ church-hall style festival still has a place – the continued popularity of CAMRA events such as the SRAF and GBBF attest to this. There does, however, seem to be room for smaller, more (dare I say) intimate beer festivals, held in quirky locations. I’m sure plenty of the old guard will be rolling their eyes at the that kind of thing, associated as it is with the new wave of British brewing, and the other c-word.
But these types of festivals work, they capture the attention – even if they are largely attended by a section of the drinking public whose attention is already fully focused. Last weekend’s Independent Manchester Beer Convention (Indy Man Beer Con, or IMBC) is a case in point – held amidst the astonishing background of the restored Victoria Baths. For the whole time I was there, I saw people wandering around the tiled corridors, tasting glasses in hand, staring at the surroundings.
The location, clearly, worked wonders for the atmosphere of the festival. At the same time the chance to speak with the people who make the beer really made it for me, as well. Brewers do attend the larger events, but something on this scale – and with ticket numbers limited to highly reasonable numbers – you could get a far better picture of what the brewers were thinking with their particular beers. Where else would you find Kjetil Jikiun, standing patiently in front of a giant Nøgne Ø banner*, answering questions from all comers?
*A banner Kjetil was the equal of – he’s one enormous chap
All of the producers I spoke to were impressed with the venue, but then I guess most are used to going where the people are to talk about their beers. Standing in an empty swimming pool to serve their products didn’t appear to faze many. Where IMBC truly delivered was this connection to the beer – of which, on my Saturday evening visit, there appeared to be a lot remaining. Next time around, the word will be well and truly out, so I’m guessing the festival will be a lot busier.
Indy Man will come round again, if for no other reason than due to the near-constant stream of praise that emanated from Twitter. Hopefully more and different breweries will be invited to the 2013 event – and that it also remains in the Victorian Baths, a location that absolutely made it. Large-scale festivals will always be there, but now, so too, will events like IMBC – the flourishing beer scene being what it is, there’s more than enough room for everybody.
For another view on the success of IMBC, and some great photos of the baths, head to Phil’s Beersay – here