IMBC LogoSecond year, second killer @IndyManBeerCon.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about actual beers. But… but… it’s a *beer* festival?! Well, yeah, I drank quite a few and a majority of them have some vague notes on Untappd. Mostly not-at-all-run-of-the-mill stuff, not a single drainpour – although one came close! (Not “bad” just “cloyingly sweet”.) The biggest problem with IMBC is the sheer number of beers I *want* to try, an impossible number. With your typical beer festival I am lucky to get a shortlist of 10 beers that just slightly excite me. So… a change of pace is required – which really adds to the charm of the festival for me. I’m not trying to work through a list, or bag beers, I’m hangin’.  Plus what use are my notes on one-off beers and a list of barely accessible “top picks”? The beer was, in general, bloody outstanding. Moving on…

Kat with Table

Even more fun was to be had simply basking in the glow of the still-developing UK beer scene – hanging out with folk passionate about what they drink and what they brew… hanging out until around 4AM on two nights! 8-O It took me 4 days to get back to a normal sleeping pattern. Our IMBC started before IMBC did – getting up at 4AM on Wednesday October 9th to drive up to Manchester and help out with the event set-up from 10AM that day. Hotel check-in done, and then a night in Port Street Beer House. A bit of a killer pre-IMBC day for us – but believe it or not we consider all this a “holiday” from our sitting-on-our-arse-all-day worklives. The 8 tokens each we got for the effort are a happy bonus.

Colin doubling up!From then on it was all drinkin’! Yeah! Back in March buying “full fat” tickets seemed a grand idea… we’d not really properly pondered the crazy Thu/Fri/Sat/Sun full-on festival experience of this though. Thursday was a steady session in the baths with an “early” night to bed in the hotel at about half past the witching hour. Friday was when the party really started, an afternoon BrewDog Mancs lunch then a grand and social IMBC evening – finishing up the night in Port Street with brewing scene stars then back in the Travelodge foyer with many of them at about 4AM. Adoring beer groupies, us. After this we slowed up… paced ourselves, enjoyed the beer, people, food, and information flow. The hangover on Saturday “lite” session helped with the slow-down ;) and a mid-session “nanna nap” helped with the evening winding back up to speed…. despite a pledge not to, on Saturday night we “accidentally” ended up in BrewDog Mancs with beerstars again… c’est la vie!

Lovibonds JeffDuring the event we attended a few talks – mainly for the sake of the beer. Not really, well – not entirely ;) In no particular order: It was excellent hearing @Lovibonds “I HATE PowerPoint” Jeff tell us of how “Sour Grapes” came about. From fortuitous twist of fate that, literally, seeded regular commercial production of sour beer. During the session we tasted the Henley Gold, the Sour Grapes, and the Barrel Aged Sour Grapes – three distinctly different beers with the same origin, it is the Henley Gold that becomes the sour by some sort of dark brewer magic.

RedWillow Toby "dry chipotles" a beer.

Whilst RedWillow @TobyMcKenzie‘s “IBU” talk was a non-starter for technical reasons, we ended up with a very entertaining talk on beer diversity instead – from live “dry chipotle-ing” a stout, through one of the best oyster stouts I’ve ever had, to a truly weird and wrong homebrew – Toby exposing his roots. Ballsy place to finish given that his 2012 IMBC “yeast” talk was pretty much a “here’s some not very nice beer, drink it in the name of science”. But believe me the real RedWillow product is damn fine. Oh my, I really need more of that oyster stout – it was amazing.

Simply HopsThe @SimplyHops Jack talk on use of hops in brewing was on the drier side (hah hah), but I like the technical as much as the entertaining – his exaggerated “where hops can be added” slide was great. I can hear the shout of the hop-head-hipsters: ALL OF THE HOP SPOTS! Scott from @thebeermoth introduced the probably-already-converted to some excellent “wild” beers, taste exploration – it’s what I’m all about.

Darkstar brewer AndyFinally @Darkstartbrewco head brewer Andy gave us an excellent, detailed and down-to-earth run-down of what’s up at the brewery – it looks to me like brewing in DarkStar has been passed on to good hands. (Factoid: Andy used to work for BrewDog! Seems to be quite a few former-BrewDog folk heading on to big things elsewhere.) That was our lot… sadly clashes and late-arrivals to sessions meant we didn’t catch several talks we wanted to.

I have video footage of most of these talks and some is definitely worth putting online, especially Lovibonds Jeff and Darkstar Andy. But first I’ll want to check it’s OK with the brewers and then I need to find the time to clean it up for publishing. For the moment there are some brief appearances from the speakers in my wacky video below!

Count the brewers? :) I gave up at 15. :-p I also have film of more Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band pieces which they’ve permitted me to publish, so I’ll see about cleaning them up too. The videoing is a bit crap, but the beatz are wikkid!

Food… haven’t covered that yet have I. A greater variety and better set-up and availability than 2012. We went to every IMBC session and ate at all but one of them and could have something different every time. Ideal. Not only that but the food was, as last year, far better quality than the typical beer festival fare. Quality and flavour – not “stodge” – craft eats? It was the Guerrilla Eats collective behind this, providing a culture- and taste-spanning diversity. Hand formed beef burgers made with rough minced beef that looked and tasted amazing, paella, dosa, rich stews (boar and black pudding – yum!), pulled pork, gourmet hotdogs with Punk IPA sauerkraut, nachos… IMBC is a solid as well as liquid festival for the tastebuds. And on top of all this the wonderful @NorthTeaPower folk brought an espresso machine along this year… perfect way to start a session after a big previous night of beery celebration.

Is IMBC a “Woodstock” for my generation of beer lovers?

I’m looking forward to 2014 already.

The Magic

P.S. After last year’s IMBC Kat put together some phone-taken video and photos to create this much darker “scary MagicRockStu clown” video:

#RIPScoop – makeup artiste!

Kat’s IndyManBeerCon Android App

IMBC-Logo-300x272 Last week Kat decided to ask if she could knock up a beer list Android app for the Independent Manchester Beer Convention. The IMBC folk were very busy of course – but were happy to send us a full beer list earlier this week, and so Kat has got the app working just in time… it is a little rough around the edges – but should form a reasonable digital alternative to the paper lists at IMBC. Of course you can’t scribble on the digital version! (Note taking is possible though.) But it does support neat features like filtering and sorting that a paper list doesn’t provide. :)

We’ve been trying to push this onto Google Play but Google Play isn’t playing ball with us for some reason – after a 12 hour wait: still no listing. So, for now, if anyone is really keen on trying out Kat’s app you can do so by downloading the APK directly.

Beer List

Beer List

Filtered List: Thursday, Keg Sorted by %ABV

Filtered List: Thursday, Keg Sorted by %ABV

First your phone will need to be configured to allow apps not from Google Play to be installed. To do this go to: Settings > Security – and then tick the Unknown Sources option. Now: download the APK:


(Don’t worry… we promise it won’t harm your device! It is a very simple app and Kat has some others on Google Play.)

Once the APK is downloaded you can select the download notification and it will ask if you want to install the application. Select “Install” … and we’re done! [You can now untick the Unknown Sources option.]

Launch the app and it’ll download the latest beer list data from our online database – this initial step takes a few seconds to complete, but should be less than a minute.

Beer View - shows location of beer

Beer View – shows location of beer

Brewery View

Brewery View

The blurb about the app features/etc that will (eventually) show up on Google Play is:

** ALPHA – has a few known bugs!

An unofficial 2013 Independent Manchester Beer Convention Beer List app!

We got hold of a sneaky pre-release of the IMBC beer list and adapted our existing beer list app for IMBC. There are a few rough edges still as this was a very last minute job! But the essentials are there…

– List of all IMBC keg & cask ales
– Filter by day (top left of beer list view)
– Filter by cask/keg (top middle of beer list view)
– Sort by name, brewer, or ABV (top right of beer list view)
– Beer location (Room 1, 2, and 3) is in the beer detail view

After installation the list can be live-updated by selecting ‘Refresh’ via the top-far-right menu, we will update things if there are any glaring errors or omissions… so long as we’re sober enough to operate the database.

Finally, as the IMBC list states: “Please note all beers are subject to availability and they could change at the last minute, so please don’t be upset.”

TODO / Future improvements:

1) Re-jig filtering mechanism
2) Add wishlist!!
3) Add search!!
4) Add events and notification
5) Auto-sync the app list with the online database

Independent Manchester Beer Convention

Wow… what a weekend!

IMBC Keg Hall – Calm Before The Storm…

The Port Street Beer House folk behind the festival deserve our praise, and thanks, for making it happen. Above all, I hope it is a business success as well as a huge social success. We need more @IndyManBeerCon gigs. I’m sure that, like myself, all beer lovers throughout the nation are hoping this is just the start… I’ve already caught wind of a potential London event of this sort kicking off for 2013.

IMBC Keg Hall – Full-Swing…

Our recent beer festival left us with empty casks that we needed to drop back at Summer Wine and Buxton breweries. Oh, look, there’s this “Indy Man Beer Con” thing happening… several of our friends will be there… could be interesting. They want volunteers too, well – why not? So on Wednesday we scooted north to Holmfirth then south over the wonderful-driving Woodhead Pass to overnight in Buxton. (For beer go to the Queen’s Head or the Old Hall Hotel – we had great condition Buxton ales in both.) Then on Thursday we popped up to Manchester to help out with the IMBC set-up… a day that predictably ended in beer. Much, maybe too much, excellent beer at BrewDog Manchester and Port Street Beer House. The evening was shared with fellow Twitter beer folk & Untapped users Kirk and Chris… as you can guess it was an evening of total beer geekery. Anyway… the next day the festival begins!

IMBC Cask Hall

Weirdly for 2 days of beer festival, I actually didn’t manage to tick off even half the beers I was interested in. Next time perhaps I should focus less on chatting & volunteering and more on the drinking part?! I’m going to list some beer highlights now… at the risk of leaving things out & alienating brewers and fellow drinkers…

  • Dark Star, Critical MassDark Star, Critical Mass (2009) – mmm… rich, dry, bretty stout. Aged since 2009 in-cask with brett yeast perhaps? I can’t find any definitive info online about this particular beer! Right up my alley though.
  • Ilkley, Green Goddess – thick, sweet, spiced dessert of a Belgian “bitter”. It magically has worked, somehow, and tastes luscious. When I was behind the cask bar, this was one of the beers people were coming back to for more.
  • Dark Star, Belgian IPA – this didn’t work for me, though many people loved it – it’s not you, it’s me… However I found it interesting, especially beside the Ilkley offering. To me there was little of that lovely American hop character left in the beer, and just a huge spike of bitterness in the middle of the palate. (Dark Star need to put more info on their website, this one isn’t there either!)
  • Wild Beer Co, Modus Operandi – a brewery I’ll be watching out for. I love “wild” beers, my nose and mouth don’t mind even a lot of wet goat, sourness, funkiness, etc. The MO was balanced & smooth though, a rich & dark saisony sorta beast.
  • Magic Juice ClownMagic Rock, Clown Juice – mainly because Stu, the Magic Juice Clown. But also because it is a great beer.
  • Hardknott, Queboid – don’t misunderstand, I don’t rate Hardknott beers just because Ann & Dave are my friends. I stalked and badgered the Hardknott folk, and eventually got to know them, because I like their beer. I’m a Queboid fan and have a small collection of bottles spanning several batches going back about 3 years. This was my first experience of it on draught, and it was goooood! Dave’s really perfecting it, if not perfected. (Though I do prefer it a few degrees warmer than it was, between 8 and 10C.) I spent some time at the Hardknott bar and did enjoy introducing people to this beer and sharing in their newfound love of Queboid. (I was in no way threatening in suggesting they should love it… really, I swear.)
  • Hop RocketBitches Brewing, Chocolate Chilli Stout – through a “hop rocket” full of chillies, and with an extra smoked naga chilli thrown in just for fun. WEAPONIZED STOUT! I had this beer for about 2 hours before topping it up with more of the stout and by that time merely placing it in the vicinity of your lips caused them to try and crawl back into my mouth and down my throat. Naga foolishness aside, the stout was a grand obsidian elixir – my favourite type of beer.
  • Buxton, Tsar – following that previous point, need I say any more?
  • @MacChater prepares @SWBrewery beery cocktailsSummer Wine – the whole mixology tasting session! I’m a flavour fiend, and this sort of monkeying around with people’s perceptions & entrenched ideas about food and drink is right up my alley. Beer as a cocktail ingredient?! Don’t be daft! … but why not? Their beers themselves are brilliant, and of course divisive as any such creatures will be. Stout with ginger? Beer with licorice? Good thing I love both ginger and licorice. The gin and Paracelsus beer cocktail was just too much gin for me, I like gin… but in this case it dominated. Less next time? The rum and Calico Jack, with chocolate orange wedge, was a huge success on my tongue. I’m going to have to buy more Calico Jack now I think. Massive thanks to @MaxChater for putting this together in collaboration with the Summer Wine dudes.
  • Lovibonds, 69 IPA – a legendary beer that I’ve never managed to get into my mouth until IMBC. It really lives up to its reputation. Lovely IPA and I really must visit Lovibonds sometime… and buy a case of it. :)
  • Tempest, Brodies, Thornbridge, Kernel, Marble… too much amazing craft beer? Never! But every one I didn’t get to experience is a wrench to the heart & a deep sobbing in the soul in memory of beers still untried. Sour beers shouldn’t go unmentioned. Cantilion on cask! The Lovibonds Sour Grapes! Oh my, the sheer diversity of it all…
IMBC Cask Bar@SWBrewery Barista & the Quantum/@NorthTeaPower collab at the coffee bar!Kegs!

For me, personally, the IMBC was actually more about people anyway. Friends who I’ve met several times like @HardKnott Dave & Ann, Twitter-personalities who I’d had yet to meet like @SimonHJohnson, even coffee gods like @HasBean Steve! Not to mention brewers… many, many excellent brewers. Also folk like myself from the fringes of the beer scene – brought together in one place by the love of really great beer. Nothing else I’ve been to in the UK is comparable… GBBF, for example, doesn’t come close. It is probably a density issue – IMBC was simply wall-to-wall with the sort of beer people you want to meet. It turned out there were people there I should have met but somehow missed, chances are we were within a couple of meters of each other. So, while the IMBC beers were astounding, it really was the people that made this festival come alive. People were the magic-ingredient, beer the not-so-secret-sauce.

The quality didn’t stop at the beer and people however. The organisers had gone out of their way to get it all right. Food wasn’t an afterthought, as it too often is. Not only was there a beer & food matched dinner available to those organised enough to book it – the general festival food was varied & exciting. Gourmet hot-dogs, brilliant quality curries, and a selection of the old staple pig products. I tried them all, everything was up to scratch. If only some didn’t run out of food so early! And COFFEE! I’m a coffee geek as well as a beer geek – quality HasBean filter coffees thanks to the wonderful people at @NorthTeaPower in the afternoon? Yes please! On top of this having @acousticcoffee Dale and @HasBean Steve at the festival was almost overload… context switching between drinking & talking coffee, and serving, drinking & talking beer almost broke me I think.

Sausage inna bun queue...

Sausage inna bun time…

Posh pie!

Posh pie!

IMBC coffee heroes!

IMBC coffee heroes!

The venue too… stunning. If you’re in Manchester you must visit the Victoria Baths. Such an exciting building to hold a beer festival in, so many nooks and crannies, such architecture! You’ll get the general idea from their own website, and some of the festival photos. If there was one downside it was the capacity of the men’s toilets. I suspect this may have been part of the reason the venue was limited to 500 tickets per session when I’m sure the bars could have supported at least 50% more. Next time I wonder if a trailer of toilets out the back might be a reasonable addition to proceedings.

The “what is craft beer” debate raged on throughout the festival. We’ll never have a satisfactory definition for something so based in the eye of the beholder. Though for me, in this moment, I’m thinking craft beer is IN the beholder. Craft beer is people. Brilliant, wonderful, friendly, diverse people.

Get some Clown Juice in you!

Get some Clown Juice in you...

Don’t just take my word for it though — here’s more: