Despite an infuriating train journey sat next to a burly woman from Stockport with no concept of personal space [WHY DID YOU REST YOUR BOOK ON MY KNEE?], I arrived in Manchester for this year’s Indy Man Beer Con in time to fit in a delicious breakfast at Terrace in the Northern Quarter.
I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that I wasn’t sat on my lonesome eating my eggs benedict and supping a pint of Magic Rock High Wire, I actually had a drinking buddy for the day, surprisingly. We just had time for a quick stop off to mosey around Beermoth – a renowned bottle shop in the heart of NQ, crammed with heaps of character and more beer than my eyes could digest.
By now it was just after twelve and if I’m honest, at this time on a Friday I was expecting the glorious venue, Manchester’s Victorian Baths, to be all but deserted, but the place was already bustling with beer fanatics. After getting our bearings – something which takes longer than you think when a beer festival is hosted inside a listed building filled with nooks and crannies aplenty – I set to work making my way through the list of my target tipples for the day, the first being the Beavertown Quelle, a fantastically hoppy saison, refreshing, citric and the perfect beer to start proceedings.
If punters weren’t busying themselves in one of the three main bars (all former swimming pools) or stumbling around the various crevices of the venue, they were outside taking in the doughy smells of Honest Crust‘s flaming pizza oven with Brewdog’s aptly nicknamed ‘Hoptimus Prime’ lurking in the background, delivering their usual staples alongside a couple of face-stompers, Everyday Anarchy and Abstrakt 12.
‘Hoptimus Prime’ taken from http://www.zoedale.co.uk/blog/events/indy-man-beer-con-a-review/
As the beer list below suggests, the Beavertown bar, which was neatly nestled inside what looked to be an old sauna room, was where we formed our base for the day. It may have been the disco ball sitting atop the pyramid of Beavertown cans or the fact that 1/3 pints of pretty much everything were just one and a half tokens, but we kept being drawn back to sample the saisons and sours.
Sour beers were well represented at IMBC- a trend I had also noticed at Birmingham Beer Bash this year. The influx of this style in the UK could perhaps be testament to breweries like the Wild Beer Co who are going lengths to develop truly unique beer styles using wild yeasts and even wilder ideas, but also because punter’s tastebuds are becoming more accustomed to their bold, lip-smackingly tart flavours. Because let’s face it, you’re lying if you say that you truly enjoy your first taste of sour beer.
The experience is up there with popping your blue cheese cherry or that first bite of an olive. You recoil in confusion at what has been presented to your fledgling taste buds and, filled with intrigue, return to the taste periodically until you crave the obscure flavours with a rabid dog-like fury.
For me, the Wild Beer and Toccalmatto Indigo Child, a sour which pours a hazy grey, dishwater colour and has be the worst looking beer I’d ever seen, was up there with one of my favourites of the festival. It’s punch was awash with overtones of under ripe plums and overtly sour gooseberries and was somehow remarkably drinkable despite the off-putting colour.
After a fair few beers were tried and tested, including Against the Grain’s creations Galangal Action and Macfannybaw, the hollandaise sauce from earlier had just about reached absorption capacity, so it was time to indulge in meat and pastry. I had circumnavigated Room 2 a couple of times just to eye-up the competition of street food and I have to say all the vendours looked incredible, in particular the Almost Famous burgers, remnants of which you could find in most of the facial hair at IMBC.
My cravings for a Great North Pie Co. creation had already been well vocalised to my family, friends and colleagues and I don’t think anything, not even Margo and Rita‘s burritos, could tempt me away from the a delicious mince meat and onion pie, the most moreish mushy peas and the taste-defining mashed potato gravy. It was comfort food at it’s finest, and the fact I was washing it down with a Camden Town Spiced Pumpkin Lager made it all the sweeter.
By this point it was nearly 4pm. Jack had to get his train back to Sheffield to go and work an 8 hour shift (ouch), while I was planning out how I was to spend the next few hours before I went to see Balance and Composure at Sound Control, so we used our last minutes at IMBC 2014 counting up our remaining tokens and stocking up on cans of Beavertown for the road.
Having looked at the beer line ups for the Friday evening and Saturday sessions I was really gutted I couldn’t have attended the whole thing. With To Øl and Evil Twin breweries making an appearance it would have been amazing to have sampled them all, but that would have been mildly greedy and I don’t think my arteries could have taken that many helpings of mash potato gravy.
This is how my beer consumption went through the course of the afternoon:
#1 Beavertown – Quelle 4.1% (Dry Hopped Saison)
#2 Red Willow – Timeless Barrel Aged 4.2% (Rhubarb Sour)
#3 Northern Monk – Kiwi Saison 5% (Saison)
#4 Camden and Beavertown – One Hells of a Gamma 5.2% (APL)
#5 Rooie Dop – De Passie 7.8% (DIPA)
#6 Beavertown – The Earl Phantom 3.6% (Lemon Iced Tea Sour)
#7 Against the Grain – Macfannybaw 8.5% (Smoked Beer)
#8 Against the Grain – Galangal Action 4.8% (Spiced Beer)
#9 Wild Beer and Toccalmatto – Indigo Child 8% (Gooseberry Sour)
#10 Camden Town – Pumpkin Spiced Lager 5.5% (Specialty Lager)
#11 Beavertown – Red Current and Sour Cherry Saison 6% (Saison)
#12 Celt Exp/IMBC – Double Dose 4.5% (Amber Ale)