This week, the unremitting beery calendar flicks around to one of the true highlights of the year: The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (or IMBC, IndyMan, IndyManBeerCon, depending on how you want to pad out a paragraph). 2014 will be the third running of the annual pool party, and having been to the previous two, I’m looking forward to this years’ iteration more than ever. That’s partly, of course, because I know what to expect now having been to the others, but also because I’m keen to see how IndyMan can become even better – and that’s coming from someone who was accused of ‘gushing’ about last year’s festival (probably fairly, to be honest).
Having absorbed the pre-IndyMan buzz, one of the prime points of difference this year looks to be the number of collaboration beers that are going to be on offer. Not just brewers sharing a mash paddle, as has become the new (and welcome) industry standard; the organisers of the festival taking the time to head to a number of participating breweries* and brewing festival specials themselves. This is a great idea, as aside from the obvious bonus of creating something original that drinkers might want to sample, it gives the people behind the beer festival more of a connection to those exhibiting there, improving the atmosphere as a result.
* Fourteen, in fact, according to this article in the Manchester Evening News
These ultra small-batch brews look to be as inventive as you would expect; group-imaginations producing such prospects as a ‘lemon iced tea sour’ with Beavertown, a Berliner schwartzbier with Quantum, and a 9% imperial saison with Weird Beard (to name but three). The six rooms of the Hathersage Road Victorian baths will have a lot more than that to interest the attendees, of course – having finally seen the full beer list [available for download here] – there’s more than enough to occupy each of the sessions; more’s the pity. Kernel’s green-hopped Bière de Table, for instance. Or Beavertown’s redcurrant and sour-cherry saison (and to think the cider guys talk about ‘bum winkers’).
As befits one of the undiminishing themes of modern brewing, those saisons are present in numbers; and speaking of numbers, Brew by Numbers’ collaboration with Jenson on their 55|01 gin saison looks to be one of the potential highlights of Sunday, whereas Northern Monk’s kiwi saison fills that role for Friday. Back to the weekend, the wonderfully-named ‘Panzer Grenadier Chateau d’Yquem’ from To Øl, a 9.1% barrel-aged tripel, jumps off the page – although, when it comes to names, surely one of the best at IndyMan belongs to a 4.5% cask best bitter, Hopcraft’s ’15 Minutes of Flame’ (one for the brewers, there).
Despite what you might infer from those previous paragraphs, there’s a lot more to the IndyMan list than barrel-aged wankery and chive, oatmeal and pomegranate beers. Aside from Hopcraft’s best bitter, there are beers such as Thornbridge Brother Rabbit (4%), Siren Driftwood (4.3%), and Black Jack Stout (5.0%). The even-lower end of the alcohol spectrum is in evidence, too, represented by the likes of Kernel’s Raspberry London Sour (3.0%), Evil Twin Sour Bikini (3.0%) and First Chop S&F (2.8%). Something to bear in mind in between thirds of Buxton Rainshadow, or Toccalmatto’s Yellow Monster – an ‘imperial radler’.
Anyway, before I write another paragraph of interesting beers, followed by another; as I’ve said, I’m hugely looking forward to IndyMan. Another reason for that is the prospect of a much more relaxed festival; last time out I was involved in an entertaining panel discussion, and then had to hot-foot it to the launch of BrewDog’s Dead Metaphor, which turned into Rob from Hopzine and myself bumbling around like a couple of contestants on The Apprentice – “Excuse me sir, do you like stouts, by any chance?”. To relax with friends, drink outstanding beer, and in unique surroundings; that’ll more than do for me.
The 2014 Indy Man Beer Con begins this Thursday at 5:30, with tickets still available for some sessions. If you have half an hour you’re fine with never getting back, my thoughts on previous years’ IMBC’s are here – 2012, 2013. Alternatively, you’re probably better off with this – Connor over at Beer Battered also put together a preview of this week’s festival, only with a detailed interview with festival organiser, Claudia Asch.