Another year, another full weekend in Manchester’s Victoria Baths enjoying the delights of innovative and creative craft beers of the highest standard. The previous weeks build up through pop-up events by the Indy Man Beer Con team and intense Twitter action created a real buzz whetting the appetites of the beer community. I was looking forward to sampling some rare beer, some solid staples and meeting beery folk that I had not yet had the pleasure of conversing with.
This year saw a slight change in the set-up with many of the breweries having their own bar area as seen at a few beer festivals this year such as Leeds International Beer Festival and Borefts. The opportunity to be served one of your favourite beers by the people involved in producing it is fantastic. Having them talk about how it was made, their influence or their own opinion of it made it even better.
IMBC 2015 also saw all the food vendors moved outside. The great weather over the weekend and large seating area gave people extra room to eat, drink and socialise. Bundobust (currently of Leeds, imminently of Manchester) were there this year bringing their amazing Indian streetfood to the hungry punters. It’s so good I had the Bhel Puri three days in a row!
There were no eating events at this year’s festival. Instead, Manchester’s elite brewers from Cloudwater Brew Co. took over the Pineapple Room serving textbook beers from their autumn range and some special beers not yet to be served around Manchester. In every room you couldn’t miss beer drinkers in Cloudwater beanie hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts proving their marketing is showing to be just as effective as the beer flowing from their taps in the Pineapple Room.
I believe it’s natural to have the mind-set to go for the rarest beers you’ll never see again, or the big beers where just a sip is enough to quell your intrigue but this year’s Indy Man Beer Con line-up did well to abolish that thought pattern. In comparison to last year’s event the brewery list was smaller; with only a small number of international breweries. The UK’s craft beer market is growing at an intense rate. Some breweries come and go; whereas others go full steam ahead withstanding the volatility of the market, creating incredible beers and raising the bar for others to follow. I had both Beavertown’s Gamma Ray and Magic Rock’s Cannonball at IMBC. Why? When I can have them anywhere in Manchester? Because they are that good; perfect examples of India Pale Ales. All breweries want their own Gamma Ray or Cannonball, and these staple beers remind us why we all are so passionate about the beer we drink in the UK.
01. Brew By Numbers – Brett Aged Barrel Aged Porter
This 11% Porter was far too easy to drink. The dark malts creating a roasty porter backed up by some boozy barrel aging and then the brettanomyces creating the funkiness I was after. I was pleasantly surprised at the body and texture the porter retained. Great balancing of the many aspects of this beer
02. Brew By Numbers – Farmhouse Witbier
Served from the newly released bottles of this superb beer. Poured straight into an Indy Man Beer CAN (seeing as they’d just filled my glass with a Session IPA…), this farmhouse beer had the horse barnyard aroma in bucket loads but that small touch of acidity making it such an easy drinker.
03. Beavertown – Yuzilla Phantom
My only grievance with Berliner Weisse as a style is the lack of bitterness needed to ensure the Lactobacillis prevails. I always feel like I’m missing out. The yuzu in this beer adds intense bitterness, creating a completely new beast.
04. Cloudwater Brew Co –Citrus Gose Grapefruit Tequila
Speaking to Paul at Cloudwater; he confirmed the Gose had been in the barrel pretty much since they first started up over at Piccadilly. And you could tell! This was like a tequila slammer in ale form. Tequila flavour from the barrel ageing smothered your taste buds; then the saltiness of the gose style dried your mouth out, all the while the citrus aroma freshened your senses. This was something special
05. Buxton Brewery – Yellow Belly [CASK]
I first had this beer in a bottle from the Rainbow Project 2014 case and it came up short against some of the others beers in the box. However; this batch, on cask of all things, was phenomenal. The creaminess from the cask delivery added to the richness of this imperial stout and the sweetness tasted incredibly refined.
Until next year…
Don’t forget to bring a towel!
Photography courtesy of Paul Abram