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PREVIEW: IndyManBeerCon, Beer Adventures

Neil Sowerby’s October beer ramblings

Written by . Published on October 7th 2014.

PREVIEW: IndyManBeerCon, Beer Adventures

JUST a few days to go until IndyManBeerCon (Independent Manchester Beer Convention, IMBC) and the organisers have released the list of every beer in every session across the four days of this craft beer nirvana in Victoria Baths (Thurs Oct 9-Sun Oct 12, details here).

For those whose salivary glands are activated, there may still be a few tickets, from £10, remaining for Thursday and Sunday. Be quick, previous years were a sellout (tickets here).

Now in its third year, this is a beer festival like no other – a world class showcase that’s a world away from warm mild in a tent. The Guardian’s Tony Naylor nailed it: “At Indy Man Beer Con the stars of UK and international craft brewing (some idolised like rock gods) man their own bars and treat their followers to various one-off, experimental and rare examples of their work.”


This involves any number of one-offs brewed specially and in collaboration, from barrel-aged to sours, cask and keg, served via 80 taps across six rooms in the stunning surrounds of the Grade II listed, architectural gem Victoria Baths in Hathersage Road.

We'll be attending on Friday and among the collaborative delights awaiting us are:

- Tintern Abbey Berliner Weisse, 4.5% with wild yeast from Tintern Abbey, with Celt Experience.
- Earl Phantom, 3.6%, Lemon Iced tea sour, with Beavertown,
- Indy Girl, 9.7%, Double IPA with Lemon and Lime zest, with Arbor Ales.
- Kiwi Saison, 5%, Saison, with Kiwi purée added in the FV, with The Grove and with Northern Monk Brew Co.
- Delta Red Disorder, 8.6%, super hopped imperial red ale, with Toccalmatto.

This is the day by day brewery breakdown.

Here’s a top ten of the most interesting breweries from outside the area.

Serving Up SausageServing up sausage ballast at last year's IMBC

There are beer-matched meals from Masterchef finalist Jackie Kearney aka The Hungry Gecko, specially curated live music from Hey! Manchester and Aficionado and a plethora of the best street food traders including Honest Crust pizza, burgers from Almost Famous, Diamond Dogs’ hotdogs, Indian street food from Chaat Cart, the Mexican flavours of Margo & Rita and mouthwatering pie’ from Great North Pie Company.

Festival organiser Jonny Heyes explains: “The beer world is a dynamic industry, more women and young people are drinking beer and it’s losing it’s stuffy, old man image, yet something was lacking in Britain’s beer festivals so we thought we’d change that.”

Cask celebration in Salford

A plug also for a more conventional ale celebration, The Salford Beer Festival, which takes place at St Sebastian's Community Centre, Douglas Green M6 6ES from October 24-25. Here's the list of breweries confirmed so far.

Always look on the Brightside of pints

Not every local brewery is going to be at IMBC. I couldn’t spot my own favourite, Marble, on the list, nor Brightside, whose Radcliffe-brewed ales (you can taste them at Salford) I am currently taking a shine to. I first encountered a couple at The Dockyard in Media City (Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards 2014 Pub of the Year – congratulations to Steve Pilling and the team) and wasn’t impressed. Their beautifully subtle take on an American Single Hop IPA, Amarillo, was the turning point.

AmarilloAmarillo – the Brightside ale that has shown me the way

Brightside (launched in the recessionary times of 2009, hence the name) is run by Neil and Maxine Friedrich and their family, from a bakery background. A love of all things yeasty aside, Neil’s design skills shine through on the pump clips and bottle labels of their Manchester Icon range of beers. The Manchester Skyline features an image of the cityscape taken at night by a local photographer. Its taste, too, is quietly breathtaking – on the evidence of a lovely pint recently at The City Arms in Kennedy Street. It’s a full-bodied 4.6 golden ale, with a complex malt profile balanced by lashings of three American hop varieties.


Manchester Icons RangeManchester Icons range, paying tribute to the city

We’ll give you a taste of the Cat!

The City Arms, Trafford and Hulme CAMRA pub of the year for 2014, was the venue for a launch of a new version of an old favourite. Moorhouse’s Black Cat is a benchmark dark mild, championing a neglected style (there won’t be many examples, even at IndyManBeerCon). Near black, full of roasted malt, delicately coffeeish, this 3.4 ABV session beer won Champion Beer of Britain in 2000 and has been in the core range from the Burnley brewery ever since.

Black Cat ReserveBlack Cat Reserve – fiercely malty beast

The new seasonal special in cask, just a mite more intense at 4.6, Black Cat Reserve, has been brewed in the build-up to Halloween as a stablemate to the same brewers’ regional homage, Pendle Witches’ Brew. There’s also a limited availability extra strength version (7%), which the Moorhouse’s roadshow brought to the City Arms. The mocha element was more pronounced as you’d expect and there were strong hints of blackcurrant. Booth's supermarket chain are stocking it in bottles.

At the time of publishing the 4.6% version, with the fierce witch’s familiar pump clip, was on draught at Bar Fringe, Swan Street; The New Oxford, Salford; Stockport’s The Railway; Worsley Old Hall; The Norfolk Arms, Marple Bridge; The House without A Name, Bolton; and The Star in Glossop.

Urmston’s new little alehouse on the prairie

 It’s great to see new pubs opening, bucking the trend (31 a week closing is the latest national figure). The most intriguing phenomenon, tapping into the resurgence of interest in cask ale and the quest for an ‘artisan’ approach, is the rise of the 'Micro-pub'. These DIY mini-hostelries, often created from abandoned shops, even have their own national register. The main cluster is down in Kent and the Isle of Thanet, where the ale-loving folk of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs are happy to squeeze up tight for a tipple. Here’s a Guardian front line report.

FizzyThe Prairie Schooner's former incarnation

Perhaps you’d count the glorious Treacle Tap in a former saddler’s shop in Sunderland Street, Macclesfield as one but up here, the pioneering spirit has been less evident... until the advent of The Prairie Schooner Taphouse in Urmston. Set in a the former Extravagant Fireworks shop at 33 Flixton Road, this new micro-pub is named after the covered wagons used by settlers in the American West, It is the brainchild of Robert MacRae, appropriately from Kansas, and fellow CAMRA member Christian McKie. Expect a selection of cask, including Brightside, and an imaginative array of American bottles. They plan to open mid-October. Check with their facebook site.


Prairie SchoonerPrairie Schooner – worth falling off the wagon for?

This is Piccadilly Tap

Finally, some breaking news, as they say. The folk behind the Euston Tap, only a Pendolino ride away (top up with bottles of RedWillow’s Virgin exclusive Tilted Ale en route), are to open in Manchester Piccadilly at the other end of the line, details to be confirmed soon. This will be a serious addition to a station complex that is trying to up its food and drink game. If it replicates its Euston offering of eight rotating cask ales, 20 on keg, plus 150 bottled beers, it should make missing a train or two de rigueur. Hopefully, there’ll be more room to swing a suitcase. The Euston version occupies one of the original Portland stone lodges, left behind when the original station was foolishly demolished in the Sixties, and might even qualify as a micro-pub.

Eusto Tap And A Bearded Beer Lover In A CapEuston Tap with obligatory bearded bloke in a cap at the bar

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Smithfield WineOctober 7th 2014.

Eco Green & Clean will be there on Friday to introduce Britelines brewery and beer line cleaner to the trade. THE revolution in brewery and beer line cleaning.

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