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Manchester's Best Ever Beer Festival?

Neil Sowerby meets Godfather of Craft Ale Pete Brown

Published on September 25th 2012.

Manchester's Best Ever Beer Festival?

OLD Hooky may be the name of a hoppy ale, but still it’s a stretch of the imagination to see New Order being paired with a Scottish cask lager. Award-winning scribe Pete Brown sees no incongruity as he seeks to widen the boundaries of our beer appreciation. 

Port Street’s recent inclusion in the 2013 Good Beer Guide (CAMRA Books, £15.99) is a triumph for the New Wave.

Intrigued by research showing listening to music changes the way wine tastes he has been   pairing classic albums with beers. “The bright hop character of Schiehallion seems a perfect match for the synth washes of Your Silent Face from the Power Corruption and Lies album,” he tells me. And there was I thinking Peter Hook was a Bass man.
Pete BrownPete BrownThat’s not to sneer at Pete, playful author of Hops And Glory and Man Walks Into A Pub. If one pundit has overseen the advent of the current Golden Age of Ale it is this former ad copywriter for corporate Euro lager. Yet he wears his zeal and learning lightly in print. The TLS called him the `Beer Drinker’s Bill Bryson’. His next tome, Shakespeare’s Local, due out in November, traces the 600-year-old history of the George, Southwark. Aristotle, Chaucer and The Sugababes all feature apparently.
Barnsley-born Pete is gigging at the Manchester Food And Drink Festival Hub in Albert Square at 7pm on Monday, October 1 (£5). Expect choice samples from his record collection, literary back catalogue and an array of local cheeses alongside some choice tipples.
Pete’s visit, in the week of the new Independent Manchester Beer Convention (Friday and Saturday, October 5 and 6, Victoria Baths), seems the perfect fit. Hops And Glory, his worldwide exploration of the India Pale Ale (IPA) style, was sparked by the fusion of tradition and experiment he’d discovered among hop-mad American craft brewers from 2005 onwards. 
“The influence has been amazing. I was talking about it back then, but it was so hard to get hold of the beers over here. That’s all changed since 2008-9 when our scene exploded. I can’t keep pace with all the new craft breweries and specialist beer bars that are springing up.
“What is driving it is the general interest in food and the rise of the social media. Beer was left behind at first, but then folk realised it was wrong to wash down all this carefully sourced food with a can of crap lager. Social media allows brewers to share ideas and bloggers to alert us to the latest products.”
Here’s where the IMBC (Independent Manchester Beer Convention) comes in – as a celebration of this thriving scene. It is the brainchild of Jonny Heyes and the boys behind the Northern Quarter’s Port Street Beer House – home to every beer style imaginable in cask, keg or bottle form. 
Port Street’s recent inclusion in the 2013 Good Beer Guide (CAMRA Books, £15.99) is a triumph for the New Wave. Some Campaign for Real Ale diehards, veteran battlers against the dreaded 'keg', are firkin livid at the craft brewers who don’t adhere to their strict tenets of cask ale and keep their beer under light gas pressure. 
It’s a 50-50 cask/keg split at thre IMBC. Make up your own mind up in the spectacular surroundings of the Victoria Baths as the two-day event looks to break away, too, from the stereotypes of the average beer festival (click here). 

Port Street BeerhousePort Street Beerhouse

Craft brewers featured include Brodies, Hardknott, Bitches Brewing, Brewdog, Camden Town, Ilkley, Kernel, Magic Rock, Tempest, Thornbridge, Lovibonds and Summer Wine.
There’ll be collaborations, too. With Ilkley Brewery IMBC have brewed two versions of  Belgian wheat beer called Wit Marie, while Stockport’s  Quantum Brewery has linked up with North Tea Power to create a Blood Orange Tea Pale Ale.
Food comes from the likes of Aumbry, Great North Pie Company, Dirty Dogs, Fire and Salt BBQ, Sindhoor South Indian and North Tea Power. Expect a musical element and pop-up beer tastings, too.
Serious beer enthusiasts are catered for by a series of evening talks at The Female Pool. On the Friday you get Toby Mckenzie of RedWillow on how different yeast strains affect varying beer styles plus a panel discussion on What The Hell Is Craft Beer?; while on the Saturday Summer Wine Brewery explores the 'alchemy of hops' and there's a Meet the Brewer with Kjetil Jikium from Norway’s cult NØGNE Ø.
Further confirmation of the way beer is being taken seriously is the presence this week of Macclesfield-based RedWillow, Ilkley and Kernel on the Best Drinks shortlist of the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards 2012.
Organiser Jonny Heyes is proud of the IMBC line-up. “We could have filled with American and European beers but we are keen to promote the pick of Britain’s craft breweries and to show it is the equal of our fine foods. We are proud to be collaborating with Aumbry, who are hosting a special meal for the convention.”
Port Street in is, in addition, holding a Eurotoberfest, celebrating the continent’s finest beers, until October 14. 
Meanwhile, Stockport Market Hall is being transformed into a German beer hall for a more trad Stocktoberfest on September 29 and 30. There’ll be 50 different German beers, pretzels and lots of oompah to celebrate 30 years of town twinning with Heilbronn.
The SIBA Great Northern Beer Festival is returning to the Mercure Hotel, Piccadilly from October 25-27 with 250 beers on offer, some of which will have just won awards from organisers, the Society of Independent Brewers.
From September 28 to October 7 it's CAMRA’S Cask Ale Week. For details of events visit this link. Locally Hydes are running a series of mini beer festivals in selected pubs.
IMBC takes place in Victoria Baths, Hathersage Road  Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester M13 0FE. There are three tiers of tickets:
IMBC Lite (12pm-4.30pm) provides access to the festival and all the day’s beer and food from the start. However, in this session there will be no special events or seminars.  £5.
IMBC Later (5.30pm-11pm) is a full session of special events, pop-up tastings, seminars and a full complement of beers. £8.
IMBC Max (5.30pm-11pm) provides access to the late session and is accompanied by a three course beer and matched meal provided by Michelin-rated Aumbry. Limited availability, £45.
Each ticket is also accompanied by one convention guide and one souvenir glass. All glasses hold just a third of a pint. Tickets can be bought from this link.
For details of MFDF beer events – Manchester Beerfest, Robinsons Pub On The Hub, Oktoberfest and Pete Brown’s Beer Tasting Mash Up – visit this link.

Victoria Baths, Butterfly Angel - That's Not The Name Of A Beer But Give It TimeVictoria Baths, Butterfly Angel - That's Not The Name Of A Beer But Give It Time

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