Indy Man Beer Con was back for its 5th year last weekend, Alec Wilby returned for the fourth time in search of doughnuts, gin and (presumably) beer.
Indy Man Beer Con (IMBC) takes over Victoria Baths in Rusholme for 4 days, filling each pool and several side rooms with different breweries and other exhibitors. Braving the September rain provided access to the food area, where a range of street food vendors toiled away to keep attendees relatively sober.
Tickets for the Saturday evening session were £13.50 but you need to book quite early (around the end of May) to get into the more popular sessions. In addition to beer, cider and artisanal soft drinks have been available for the last couple of years. New this year, however, was gin, courtesy of award-winning Manchester brand, Three Rivers.
At IMBC, one token is £2.50, or you can get 11 for £25, new this year were food tokens for £1. One drinks token gets you 1/3 of a pint — or one G&T — working out at £7.50 a pint. IMBC was cheaper in the past, but after some upset last year, it seems that attendees have accepted the price hike as permanent. I bought £25 worth of beer tokens and £10 of food tokens and later traded in excess drinks tokens to buy more food.
One of the big hits last year was the doughnuts from Blawd Bakehouse, with one of my friends insisting that they were worth the entry cost. After finding a table, I went straight to their stall and bought a peanut butter custard doughnut — pictured above — for £3. They also had a couple of jam and a couple of custard types on offer, as well as cherry pie.
It pains me to say that after a year of anticipation, I was a little disappointed. The dough itself was excellent, much softer than I expected but not to the point where it collapsed after a bite. The filling was the wrong choice. I should have gone for jam.
Blawd Bakehouse has apparently been operating out of Common although, since the last IMBC, I’ve not managed to get one of their doughnuts. They should, however, be opening soon in SiOP SHOP in the Northern Quarter, I would recommend giving them a try.
I’m not really a beer person so I tend to just pick drinks at random and suffer the result — although I would say this year I was fairly successful. I started with CAKE, an IPA from Garage Beer Co. It looked a bit… wrong? — it’s the cloudy one in the main picture — but it was a decent IPA with a peachy aftertaste.
Following that was Siren’s Yu Lu loose-leaf pale, which I’d recommend to anyone who’s a fan of tea. A friend who is very into her dark beer recommends Siren’s Rum Barrel Broken Dream, a twist on their staple breakfast stout, Broken Dream.
She assures me that the — quite complex — method of ageing coffee beans in rum barrels before incorporating them into the beer brewing process had delicious results. I can’t stand stout so you’ll have to take her word for it.
This is the fourth year I’ve been to IMBC and I’ve always eaten one of Almost Famous’ offerings, however this year they were nowhere to be found, having been replaced with Patty Smith’s. Their queue was quite long — which presumably says good things about their burgers — and I was starving so I decided to go off the beaten track. Diamond Dogs had been at a previous IMBC, but hotdogs have always been something I’ve ignored.
I went for ‘The Boss’ dog, featuring pulled pork and BBQ sauce and didn’t regret a thing: the sausage was decent and was complemented well by the topping. It also had the benefit of being very clean to eat, versus my usual festival experience with Almost Famous.
After the hotdog, I made the decision to switch to gin. Three Rivers were testing the waters for gin at IMBC and were offering a G&T garnished with a black cherry for 1 token, or a gin/ginger/grapefruit/IPA cocktail for 2 tokens.
The G&T was a welcome change to beer and my gin-drinking friend and I went back for several more, however, I wasn’t a fan of the cocktail. Actually, I’ve yet to have a beer-based cocktail that I would say worked. Their offerings were arguably better value for money than beer. Hopefully, the positive reaction of attendees will lead to a larger gin selection in subsequent years for people who like the atmosphere, but not beer.
As the evening came to a close, there was one more drink I had to try and it was soft serve beer. Buxton Brewery had slushie machines with them and were using them to make the head for some of their beers.
The result was a very chilled, refreshing drink — Myrcia Oatmeal Hopburst IPA — that helped with some excruciatingly hot salt and pepper fries from Dim Sum Su, which, while delicious, lacked the peppers I would have expected.
Once again, IMBC was a great evening with as wide a selection of food and beer as you could hope to find in any single place in Manchester. The addition of gin was a welcome one, and one I hope is further expanded in subsequent years.
The return of Karkli with their lentil based snacks — available in pubs around Manchester — and Blawd Bakery were welcome — even if I made a poor flavour choice. I’ll be going again next year and would recommend it to beer and food lovers alike.