Real ale and craft beer lovers rejoice: Indy Man Beer Con tickets are now on sale, with some surprises in store…
It’s fair to say that craft beer is having a bit of a thing right now. Head to your local and chances are you’ll be asked to choose between a pint from the latest independent producer to whatever is being brewed by that new microbrewery in the basement. From Manchester’s Marble to Liverpool’s Craft Beer Company, if it’s an artisan pint you’re after, you won’t have to look far.
Riding the crest of this perfectly pulled wave is Indy Man Beer Con, the annual craft beer festival that, despite its relative youth, has won love from real ale fans and amateur booze lovers alike. Last year’s festival sold out months ahead of time, while the national broadsheets variously declared it as “a joyous event” and one that is “both more relaxed and more serious about what’s in the glass” than other such fests.
It is exactly this combination of beard-stroking seriousness and what we like to think of as a natural Mancunian talent for fun that makes IMBC work: if you’re a follower of CAMRA’s profile raising, real ale campaigning work, you’ll find enough here to keep you happy. If you’re just craft beer curious, and fancy dipping your toe further into alcoholic waters without (ahem) getting out of your depth, well, this is also the festival to head for. “We were the first British beer festival to make a feature of the brewers themselves being on hand to pour the beer and talk to the consumers direct,” says organiser Jonny Heyes. “We make a big deal about making it an all round great event, not just beer, but great food, entertainment, organisation and an amazing, charismatic venue.”
It’s a combination of beard-stroking seriousness and a Mancunian talent for fun that works
Ah, the venue. It is, of course, none other than Manchester’s own Edwardian water palace, Victoria Baths, the one-time star of Sherlock and the BBC’s Restoration TV show and whose tiled and terracotta surrounds provide an idiosyncratic backdrop to the festival. “It has a real personality,” says Heyes. “I think this comes not just from the architecture and history, but the passion and commitment of the people who saved it from near destruction and who continue working hard to push the building forward and make it into a living, breathing building once again. More power to them, I say.”
The final line-up of the event remains deliberately sketchy for now – Heyes wants to maintain a degree of surprise for IMBC’s third year, though will admit to using more of the Baths’ “hidden spaces” – but we do know that, alongside 80 different kinds of beer (in kegs as well as casks), there will be talks, “secret” tastings, a beer-matched menu, live music and street food. We also expect to see more collaborations between IMBC organisers and breweries such as Thornbridge and Marble to create one-off beers for the event.
As to the organisers, well, it will come as no surprise that Jonny Heyes and co. are also behind our favourite trio of craft beer bars – Common, Port Street Beer House and The Beagle – which themselves provided a kind of inspiration for the festival. “Being that we’d developed a bit of a thirst for our national beverage through Common and Port Street, we started to feel that the beer scene was marching on with a new generation of brewers and drinkers,” says Heyes. But the traditional beer festivals hadn’t quite kept up. “They were stuck in the dark ages, with anonymous venues, crap service, warm beer and no real attention paid to the customer experience.” And thus Indy Man Beer Con was boozily birthed. Judging by the previous two events, there’s no chance of either warm beer or crap service at IMBC this year. See you at the bar.
Many sessions have now sold out – a few tickets are still available for Thursday and Friday daytime, and Sunday afternoon.