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Indy Man Beer Con

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention is the beer festival which isn’t. A coming together of the most exciting breweries known to man, a melting point of crafty liquids drawn from all corners of the earth, an event where people come to drink some of the best beer being brewed, and talk about the beer they are drinking and smash glasses together and fall over. I’ve never been to any other sort of convention but I don’t expect they’re nearly as much fun.

IMBC sets up shop in Victoria Baths, a Victorian swimming pool and listed building of surprising character and beauty. We headed down on the Thursday session, sat down in the deep end of the ladies pool and got drinking. I wish we could write about all the amazing beers on offer, but our limited alcohol tolerance meant that what follows is pretty much a drop in a large ocean of ale.

There were some really great big dark beers floating about. In particular theBourbon Barrel Aged Bearded Lady (10.5%!), an imperial brown stout fromMagic Rock. The beer has massive coffee flavours, berry and apple aromas and a smooth, savoury finish shot through with pure booziness.

Ad Hop breweries Black Widow is also worth shouting about – it’s a super tasty chocolate and malt explosion which conceals the 9.3% ABV well.

I also got to try Magic Rock’s sour saison collab with Stillwater Artisanal – Pina Collision. Something truly novel and interesting; the beer starts sour enough to grab your attention, then follows through with massive pineapple flavours and zestiness. It’s all wrapped up by that lovely spicy saison character. I weep that I am unlikely to see this beer again.

Mad Hatters Tzatziki Sour managed to taste sour and like Tzatziki but also like a lovely beer. I want to drink this with a gyros because I think that would be absolutely amazing.

We stopped to get some food after drinking lots of beers: the organisers had laid on a kicking courtyard with an eclectic food van collection. I’m normally a big fan of Honest Crust, they make phenomenal Neapolitan pizzas. However I was a little disappointed on the night – they were charging near as much as in their sitdown spot in Altrincham but with none of the same care or consistency.

Shout out to Bundobust for their great tasting paneer kebabs – really excited for when these guys put down roots in MCR.

We finished the night by barhopping around a few of the brewery spots in the back of the baths. Northern Monk had taken over a dark and cosy nook, drinking New World IPA by candelight made you feel like you were getting drunk in the cloisters of a medieval abbey, which is nice.

It all got a bit hazy in the Cloudwater bar, where I got to grips with their autumnal Red Ale. I think it balanced some bouncy American hops with a sweet, earthy malt backbone – but I could be wrong as my notes were near illegible at this point. Last orders were shortly announced by megaphone, and we knew it was time to go.

We left IMBC filled with beer, contentment and more than a little awe. We’ll definitely be back in the baths next year.

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