Beer One: Thornbridge Cedar (5.0%)
Location: Room 2 (Status: Petting)
IndyMan isn’t a tickers festival. I mean, you do see them there, with their printouts and running orders; beery Racing Posts to annotate with their bookies’ pencils. It’s just such an undertaking, though. Pretty much everything there is exceptional or unusual. A quick scan of the beer list prior to our session yielded nineteen beers to try. That’s a lot of thirdage. There’s simply no way you can keep up; I realised this shortly after departing Edinburgh Waverley, much less before having to hunt round for a pencil sharpener.
Beer Two: Liverpool Craft American Red (5.0%)
Location: Room 1 (Status: Swimming in Diving Area)
In the end, I downloaded the app, and didn’t use it once. After that train-based scanning of the beer list, I then proceeded to leave that sheet of paper in my bag, in the cloakroom. These things were just as well, maybe. As I said, you can’t get frantic at IMBC; aside from the beer, the venue itself precludes it. Tight stairs and wobbly wooden seats. Hidden bars around every tiled corner. Going with the flow, the best method is just to pick what’s in front of you and go with it; what Iain M. Banks might have called the ‘ah fuck it’ tendency.
Beer Three: Squawk IPA (6.2%)
Location: Room 1 (Status: Running)
Take Squawk – never heard of Squawk. After asking festival organiser Claudia, I discovered they were from Manchester. A hometown micro? Rummage in the pocket for some tokens (after two beers, my IMBC hand stamp had already worn away from doing this). The Friday afternoon session was filling up, but you were never more than thirty seconds from a bar – unless you’d negotiated one of the staircases, of course. It was irresistible, up there; sit on a wooden fold-down and imagine what the ‘First Class Males’ of old would have thought of all this.
Beer Four: Celt Cell Rebirth: Silk Road 01 (8.5%)
Location: Room 1 (Status: Acrobatics)
“Remember this one from Celt”, I thought to myself. So I took a photo of the pump clip, and then found it a couple of days later, in between numerous shots of people horsing around in empty changing stalls, and five identical photos of the same burger. Cell Rebirth is one of those modern marvels – it has this in it, plus that, then some of this. Then it has that added to it, in turn it’s added to this, and it involves Melissa Cole. Everything was balanced, beautifully. Beer of the festival for me, no question.
Beer Five: Against the Grain Citra Ass Down (5.0%)
Location: Room 2 (Status: Pushing)
The tiniest of bars, at the back of the main hall, heavy with burger smoke. Looking for something to accompany a pulled tandoori chicken burger, ‘Citra Ass Down’ leaps out as one of the few puns on show. Great beer though. Food pairings help give beer a sense of legitimacy when put up against the media domination of the grape, but this was a pairing in the rawest sense. Bolting a burger as quickly as possible, because it was so incredible, in between taking greasy-fingered swigs of kegged IPA, to keep the shovelling going. Probably giving the beer a compliment and doing it a disservice, at the same time.
Beer Six: Cromarty Wild Bush (6.5%)
Location: Room 3 (Status: Ducking)
The darker, smaller-pooled room three, with empty stage at the deep end and permanent brewers’ scrum either side of the bar. Craig Middleton – seen sprinting through the streets of Manchester the night before, apparently – in conversation with Logan Plant. After having my own conversation with Craig earlier, the subject of gorse-picking arose, and tales of his injured thumbs mean there’s really only one beer I can order first at this bar – Cromarty’s Wild Bush. We ask Craig why he was running, and where he was going; he has absolutely no idea. It’s that kind of festival, to be honest.
Beer Seven: Beavertown The Earl Phantom (3.6%)
Location: Turkish Baths (Status: Shouting)
The Pick n’ Mix continues – with so many IMBC collaboration beers, you could have had a pretty fantastic day out just restricting yourself to them, to be honest. A lemon iced tea sour drunk whilst peeking over at Jeppe from Evil Twin, sat on a marble recliner, in his Even More Jesus t-shirt. We would actually sit next to him again, later, in a pub, as he cautiously sniffed a bottle of Sarsons in that ‘what is this condiment’ game you always play in foreign countries. You could measure on-pointness from which brewery is in the Turkish Baths, I think; 2012 (BrewDog), 2013 (Magic Rock), 2014 (Beavertown).
Beer Eight: Toccalmatto Delta Red Disorder (8.6%)
Location: Green Room (Status: Bombing)
After getting to know Bruno Carilli, and receiving a raise of the Italian eyebrows when telling him my favourite style was Vienna lager, I have a Toccalmatto rule. That means, in essence, I hardly ever get to taste beers from the likes of Brewfist, as I’ll head straight for Bruno’s concern, instead. I’m not even sure what Delta Red Disorder was, to be honest – I’d long since given up any pretence of note-taking – but it was great. Another corker from Toccalmatto, and further strengthening of the rule. By this point, though, it was time for one last beer, as the session was about drawing to a close. But what to have?
Beer Nine: Magic Rock Bearded Lady PX BA (10.5%)
Location: Above Room 1 (Status: Heavy Petting)
The last time I downed a barrel-aged Bearded Lady, it was at the end of a tap takeover that resulted in me – if not exactly flitting through the streets, Happy Chappy style – then certainly regretting it the next morning. That was bourbon-barrel Bearded Lady; the sight at IndyMan of a Pedro Ximénez-aged version (at 11:30am) solved instantly 4:15pm’s ‘last-beer question’. Retreating to the top deck of the baths, BL PX was just as good as I could have hoped for. In terms of beer, you can’t catch them all at IMBC; each day is a different beer festival, really. But it doesn’t matter; this is a festival for pure enjoyment.