The Independent Manchester Beer Convention, or Indy Man Beer Con (IMBC), is the beer festival for those who aren’t so bothered about CAMRA, casks and beery heritage as well as those who would rather drink a third of a pint of extra-hoppy rhubarb IPA, brewed in a shed in the Peak District. Although there are some cask ales on sale for the orthodox drinker, the IMBC aims to showcase a more “progressive” side of beer.
Last Thursday, I headed down to catch the convention’s first session at Manchester’s historic Victoria Baths—whose crumbling, Edwardian splendour is an unusual, but lovely place for sampling some deliciously tasty beer. The convention stretches across three main halls, and a warren of green-tiled rooms and hallways.
It was pretty bustling. My companions and I grabbed a table and got down to some beer tasting.
I started off with a super tasty Black Widow Imperial Stout, from Ad Hop of Liverpool. Taste-wise, it’s a chocolate, coffee and malt explosion—dangerously drinkable at 9.3% ABV. The stouts and porters were out in force. Honourable mentions go to Ireland’s Galway Bay and their refreshing, crisp milk stout, Buried At Sea. And also, to Magic Rock of Huddersfield, and their Bearded Lady Stout (another boozy heavy hitter at 10.5% ABV), which had the smell of ripe apples—but upon tasting, it had a deliciously rich, but smooth coffee flavour, and a slight savoury finish.
The best kind of weird beer from that night, was the Tzatziki Sour from Merseyside’s Madhatter Brewery. It genuinely tasted like Tzatziki—a bit sour and yoghurty, with a definite cucumber edge. But somehow, it was still beer and it was absolutely delicious.
Less good, but also unusual, was the Ice Cream Pale (a collaboration by Buxton and Swedish craft brewers Omnipollo). Very pale, sweet with a vanilla finish, and a touch of creaminess. Sounds nice, but ultimately, it was a bit too sweet and tasted a bit too artificial, too.
Later, we went outside to grab some food from one of the many trucks and stalls which had been set up to feed the beery punters. It was all pretty expensive (£8 for pie and mash!). I didn’t go for anything more than a portion of chips, but my flatmate splashed out on a paneer kebab which looked tasty. Very generously, he let me try some, and I can indeed confirm that it tasted great.
If there was one thing I didn’t like about the IMBC, it was the pricing. Craft beer is more expensive, but IMBC prices are listed by the 1/3 pint. That’s not a bad thing, but there were very few beers for less than £1.50 a third. My maths GCSE tells me that’s £4.50 a pint! This might put a lot of these delicious brews out of the price range for many students.
Finally, I ended the night in Manchester’s own Cloudwater Brew Co.—away from the main rooms, sipping on their crisp, refreshing and autumnal Red Ale (4.5%). By this point, the notes I was scrawling down were getting messy, so I decided to call it a night—it was last orders anyway.
Next year’s IMBC is on my calendar already. Maybe it’s not the cheapest place to drink. But the gorgeous venue, buzzing atmosphere and excellent selection of beers more than make up for it.
Stanley is a co-writer for specialbrewsmcr.com beer blog. Follow them on twitter @SpecialBrewsMCR
Correction: A previous version of this article referred to Ad Hop Brewery as Ad Hoc. This far wittier name has been amended within the article.