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Photo: Alec Wilby

Indy Man Beer Con

In its 4th year, the Independent Manchester Beer Convention (or Indy Man to most attendees) is bigger than ever, but how does it compare with previous years?

Indy Man is held in Victoria Baths in Rusholme, giving it a particularly Manchester vibe while providing it with a functional venue. The exhibitors are divided up into each of the three pools (though I don’t know if the choice of pool has any bearing on what is on offer) with a few others scattered around the building. As well as beer, you can also get cider, artisanal soft drinks, bar snacks and—most importantly—an array of street food.

Before I move on to the beer, let’s discuss price. Indy Man runs Thursday to Sunday and we chose to go on the Friday; Saturday might have been better but it sold out almost instantly. Tickets were £15 and we booked well in advance, though you could apparently get tickets for the Thursday evening on the day. Your ticket gets you access to the venue and a glass, after that you need to buy tokens to spend on drinks and food.

In previous years, I went in with £10-15 and had a good evening with a decent amount of drinks and food. The pricing of drinks tended to vary based on per cent and was sold in 1/3s (though the people operating the pumps were fairly lenient with the amount you got, as the glass had plenty more room). This year, drinks were 1 token for a 1/3, regardless of  per cent or speciality, however, tokens were also £2.50—more than twice the price of last year if memory serves.

With no other choice (and having paid for our tickets months previously), we each bought 11 tokens for £25 (the special offer to soften the blow). The event was great, it is just a little irritating that the cost has jumped so much in a year, particularly considering that the increase in price wasn’t apparent when buying tickets. Anyway, let’s move on to the food and drinks.

After buying beer tokens, having not eaten for several hours, I headed straight for the food. With stalls including Almost Famous, Bundobust (Indian street food coming soon to Manchester) and Honest Crust pizza, you are spoilt for choice. This year (as with every year before), I started with Almost Famous, for consistency. I opted for the Bacon Winning Burger (2 burgers, bacon, ghurkins, onions, sauces), if you’ve had food from the Almost Famous van before, you know what to expect.

If not, definitely one of the best burgers I’ve had, anywhere. Try their restaurant in the Northern Quarter.
Photo: Alec Wilby

My issue with Almost Famous at Indy Man for the past 2 years though is that for a chain that prides themselves on unique burgers, they aren’t really doing that much different. The first year we went, they had designed 2 or 3 burgers specifically for the event, revolving around beer. I’ve eaten a fair few Almost Famous burgers and while the only thing I fully remember about that year’s burger was “beerio’s”, I do know that it was excellent. I hope they try harder next year.
After the burger, I had enough tickets for 7 drinks and not really knowing where to start (worth highlighting at this point that Indy Man has a huge amount of choice), I headed to the Indy Man collaboration table.

This year, a number of breweries did special beers in collaboration with the event organisers, the one I picked was V.I.P.A. from Siren/Indy Man. An 8.5% Vimto “inspired” pale ale: it was nice enough, but the Vimto aspect was more of an aftertaste than a key feature.

Photo: Alec Wilby

My favourite beer from the night was, without a doubt, 5-Alarm from Siren/Hoppin’ Frog. It was a 7.4% spiced beer and had a sort of sweet taste but balanced by the warming effect of the chilli. If you see it around, I’d definitely recommend trying it.
Other highlights of the evening were:

·         Karkli: a lentil based snack that looked like mini churros. The flavour we had was made with Fiery Ghost Naga chillis (though less spicy variants were available). The first 2 or 3 were incredibly hot (painful?) but the flavour underneath was incredible after you got accustomed to the burn.

·         Honest Crust Pizza: freshly made pizza, cooked in a wood fired pizza oven, not much else to say. I think they were there last year and they were great then as well.

·         Blawd Bakery x Idle Hands: it was too late in the evening for coffee (Idle Hands) but a few of my friends got doughnuts from Blawd Bakery (they were sold out by the time I got there). The doughnuts were being freshly made at the stand so the jam inside was still warm when you ate them. One of my friends stated “[the doughnut] was worth the entrance fee alone.”

·         Christian Bale Ale (IPA) and Solar Terminator (Pilsner): both bought for the name, neither disappointed.

·         Blacklight Banana (Imperial Stout): I’m no fan of dark beers but this one was nicely softened by the taste of the banana. Whether or not you like stout, it’s worth a try.

Indy Man 2016 was, as with previous years, a great event. The choice of beers available was huge and the food on offer was excellent as always. My only major gripe about it was that the price increase was a fairly significant change in only a year. I would go again, but paying £7.50 a pint, and with a starting price of essentially £40, I could understand why people might not want to go. Looking at social media surrounding the event, attendees weren’t particularly happy about the price hike and so my hope is that for next year, the organisers reconsider.

Tags: alec, beer, con, independant, indy, man, Manchester, wilby

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