Vegan Beer Fest 2016

Back in 1823, an imposing six story, steam powered mill was built in Salford for Manchester-born spinner Nathan Gough. They named it Islington mill. After he died in 1852, his obituary stated that he was 'ingenious, self-educated man, who owed his ultimate position entirely to his own industry and perseverance.'

His own industry and perseverance, and the sacrifice of nineteen workers who died when part of Islington Mill collapsed in 1824.

Since then, the huge mill has been reinforced (we hope) and turned over to less exploitative purposes. Today, it houses an arts club, perforsmance space and community centre.

A couple of weeks ago we headed over to check out the Manchester Vegan Beer Festival, organised by food blogger Fat Gay Vegan and Pitfield Brewery.

If you were to do a Family Fortunes-style survey asking 'what are the ingredients of beer?', you wouldn't get many respondents answering 'milk' or 'fish bits'. But as many beer drinkers know, both ingredients can and do regularly feature in the brewing process. Unfermentable milk sugar is added to sweeten some styles, particularly Milk Stouts. As for fish bits: swim bladders are used by fish to move up and down under the sea. Arguably more important though is their use in beer circles to make isinglass, which is used to remove floating particles from beer quickly.

A trend towards unfined beers has been good news for vegans and bad news for the old guard of real ale traditionalism, who might assume that naturally hazy beer isn't fit for consumption.

There aren’t many beer festivals set against a finer backdrop than Islington Mill, an imposing redbrick building artfully repurposed, boasting a sun dappled courtyard all decked out for the when the vegans descended. The festival also had an inside and outside bar, as well as a stall selling unfined bottles and cans from the likes of Chorlton brewery.

There was a swathe of vegan food traders in attendance, including the much loved V Revolution hawking plant based junk food (some of their banging nachos, below). This, along with other promotional stands, gave the impression that this was a vegan festival firstly and a beer festival secondly. That being said, there was an impressive list of beers from Manchester and further afield.

Unfortunately we caught the Sunday session, meaning 70% of these beers weren't up for grabs. Another negative aspect was an obvious dispense problem, many of the beers were pouring too lively, meaning that you were likely to be given a beer that had been left to settle in an empty milk bottle. Ironic, I know.

We still managed to try a good few beverages though, here are our pick of the bunch:

Redchurch - Paradise Pale Ale 3.7%

A fruity smooth pale ale which was extremely refreshing. Everyone in our group had one and it was unanimously the beer of the day.

Five Points Brewing Company - Railway Porter 4.8%

A very solid chocolatey, coffee porter which was wasted on a sunny day. Would be perfect for a winters eve in an old fashioned boozer.

Fat Gay Vegan Beer – Unknown %

By far the most interesting beer on offer, this was a salty/lime cask beer. It’s safe to say we haven’t tasted anything like this before, and probably never will again.

As mentioned before this wasn’t a festival for the purists but that doesn’t mean to say it wasn’t a success. The venue and vibe was great, and it just goes to show how many great vegan beers are being brewed in the UK right now.

MEAT IS MURDER