The night before Independent Manchester Beer (and Stuff) Convention (better known to you and I as Indy Man Beer Con, or IMBC for maximum abbreviation) is always one of skittish anxiety and this year was no different. What would be my first beer? Should we get a table first or tokens? What happens if Cloudwater run out of DIPA V8?
My anxieties aren’t helped by turning up to the Saturday Day session at 11:30 on a hilariously tropical October morning only to join the snaking queue some 500 people deep. I’m convinced everyone will be ordering that DIPA first and my strategic master plan will be thrown into disarray.
Upon arrival the Cloudwater team assure me there’s enough V8 to last the whole weekend, allowing my nerves to cease their shredding. Now I am a man with the world at my feet and it’s high time I drank that world, so I start with IMBC virgins Jester King and their smoked malt, juniper-infused and sweet gale Saison, Gotlandstricka (6.6%). It’s as totally mad as that sounds and perhaps defines my whole approach to Indy Man. Y’see, I haven’t attended this festival every year since its inception (5 years) to taste beers I can sample any-bloody-where. I’ve come here to exercise my weird and wacky taste buds, to let my freak flag fly, and as I walk around the festival plenty of beers that fit that description catch my eye and beckon me in.
As always the bar staff are super-helpful, friendly and always up for a chat. Stockport’s Thirst Class have cleverly put a bee in my bonnet and enticed me to their stand with a funky little pun of a title. I exchange some They Might Be Giants witticisms with Brewer and Proprietor Richard Conway as he pours me a thick ‘n fruity third of Farmhouse In Your Soul (5.3%). Later I also regale an unsuspecting bartender that I’m ordering Jester King’s Le Petit Prince (2.9%), as just last week I read the Antoine de Saint-Exupery novella of the same name. She doesn’t even look like she’s humouring me. I’m definitely in my element here…
The food is always outstanding at Indy Man and the tacos from Al Pastor Paul pair stupidly well with the aforementioned table beer. The mole with avocado, chocolate chilli spiked sauce and cheese variety particularly blew my tiny mind!
Other beers of note include Brodie’s Mocha Milk Stout (9%), To Øl’s Roses Are Brett (6%), Wild Beer and Indy Man‘s BA strawberry sour Strawblender (5.5%) and of course Cloudwater’s best in the series so far DIPA V8 (9%). Even better than all of those however may have been when Buxton Brewery decided to out-raspberry themselves with the limited edition Double Raspberry Rye (5.2%) with a soft serve topping. Picture it if you will; the Mediterranean sun causing your delicious raspberry ice cream to melt before your very eyes, your only chance of cooling down, nay, survival, is to whip off your trunks and go skinny-dipping in sweet raspberry coulis. Yes, it was that good…
This year also marked the first time I got to experience a talk – I’m usually too slow or drunk, or both. My fellow blogging chum Matthew Curtis of Total Ales was doing a live tasting of Fourpure and Cloudwater’s Optare (a 6.6% Black Belgian IPA) and of course whilst wanting to see and support Matt, I also really wanted to participate in something as completely nerdy as live beer blogging! The crowd took a while to warm up to both the concept and the beer but I assisted in contributing a few adjectives including “a palate like Victorian wallpaper”, which a gentleman took to so kindly he found me after the talk and shook my hand, still chucking… Fourpure’s Rob Davies even liked my Mo Farah analogy so much he rewarded me with a delicious slice of Shape Shifter IPA (6.4%). Top lad!
And therein lies the key to Indy Man’s continued success; that friendly, free-spirited, open armed, big fun environment, which keeps me (and many, many others) coming back year after year. So, I’ll see you all in 2017 then.
Words and photographs by Cameron Steward of All You Need Is Beer.