There's a great post about IndyManBeerCon by Phil from Oh Good Ale. It tells in a humorous way his reasons for not attending this much praised and sought after event. While I don't agree with them all, I can see where he is coming from. It is a particularly different type of beer festival to most and to some not at all their cup of tea. For many others though, it is a "must", which in itself must surely make it worthwhile? Give the people what they want and all that.
One of Phil's main gripes - and it would have been one of mine too had I paid - was the £13 entrance fee which got you a glass, a programme and nothing else. As I was there as trade, I didn't pay and glad I am too that I didn't, but I do know that many felt it a bit steep and that many more either didn't, or didn't care that much. You see, for many, IMBC has become a place to be seen at. That's worth a lot to them as social cachet apparently, but then again, in the non beer world, there are plenty such events and while we may shake our heads about Glyndebourne, Henley Regatta and Last Night of the Proms, if it gives pleasure to attendees and a good time is had, I for one say "Good Luck to Them".
It was the first time I'd been to Victoria Baths in the daylight and while always thoroughly convinced that this event would be a lot less attractive if held elsewhere, I moved the dial over even more. The venue is tremendous. Magnificent in fact and the perfect backdrop to the event itself. The usual mix of keg and cask seemed to veer more to keg this year and that's what I mainly drank. Prices varied from a pound a third to £4 a third, with most somewhere in between and exhibited the usual bizarre differences. A 3% and a 6.7% beer on the same bar at the same price is odd to say the least, but then again, I have no idea how things are priced up there and who decides. And someone has to pay for the set up, brewers etc.
So how was it for me? Well, as always I find this kind of do a place to
meet people I already know or know of. It is the social interaction
that I enjoy, the putting of faces to names and the meeting up with
fellow beery friends that I only see now and again. It may well be
heresy, but the beer is rather incidental to me and I don't therefore
sit scribbling notes about this or that beer. I'm there for the crack
and all the effort in the world to put on this or that saison, sour, or
(yawn) collaboration, is merely backdrop to that particular aim. The venue wasn't without its problems though. The room with the food was too smoky from much grilling and the room with
the ceiling under renovation was pretty gloomy, but both were easily dealt
with by nipping in, buying your beer and retreating elsewhere to drink it. The beers were interesting enough to provide talking points and were all well presented.I didn't find much wrong with the beer once you'd swirled some of the excess CO2 out of it. I'm guessing too that Manchester has a lot less hipsters, so the crowd was pretty mixed, with plenty of CAMRA types there also and many of then serving as volunteers. We laughed at one customer who thought a photo of three CAMRA chairmen all drinking keg might have been newsworthy (it isn't) and generally had a good time with beery people.
IMBC is a great event. It is all done on a very human level and for most of its customers it's a pleasure. Can't see much wrong with that really. Nothing suits everyone and you don't have to go. One or two beers disappointed, but what festival does that not happen at. Mostly though, these are beers for sipping, not supping. That changes the dynamic of the event too and one well known brewer told me his cask products were suffering from that aspect.
The photo shows the sort of shenanigans that goes on there. I think they may still have had their trousers on at the point I took the photo.
I guess too there would be many more hipsters and trendies there in the evenings.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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