The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) 2013 Pt 1

20131008_155421(The Splendour that is The Victoria Baths)

Doing this bloggy type thingy, one of the first things I wrote about was The Independent Manchester Beer Convention or IndyManBeerCon. A Beer Festival revelation, not only featuring some of the best beers that the UK had to offer, but held within the legendary Victoria Baths on Hathersage Rd. I remember getting my first drink and taking 45 minutes just to drink in the wondrous surroundings. The building may have been in need of substantial further refurbishment, but (and I don’t use this word lightly) I was awestruck. Stunning stained glass windows, beautiful balconies, lots of almost secret rooms. Ohh…….

Organised by the people behind Port Street Beer House, A Place Called Common & The Beagle, I was chuffed to bits to hear that the sequel was to have the same location. Another opportunity to say WOW!

For 2013, The “Convention” was to expand into 4 days from last years two. That was to be expected. Last year was incredibly popular, rightly so. The combination of the excellent beers, superlative “Street Food” and that oh so sumptuous location was a winner from the moment the doors first opened. Last year, I attended as a punter on the Friday and worked the bar on the Saturday. It was, quite simply, the most fun I’d had with my clothes on!

I had to ask myself, “Could they better last years’ effort?”

I assisted with one of the “Set Up” sessions on Tuesday. Partly (let’s be honest!) for a free session ticket. However, my main motivation was to see what the place looked like BEFORE the “beer locusts” arrived on the Thursday evening, draining everything in their path!

20131008_124305(Room 1 – The beers had just started to arrive)

The logistics of this organisation are simply boggling. Before the beer started arriving, the first job to do was washing and drying glassware. And there was A LOT OF IT! Just as we got started, Magic Rock and Marble arrived with their beer deliveries. Magic Rock had their own room (the room in which Brewdog were located last year), so that was easy. The Marble beers had to be delivered to their bar which was in room 1 – thank the gods for cask carriers!

20131008_124421(No. Those are empties. Is it just me, or does this look like a shrine?)

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(The REAL “Angel of the North”!)

What, with more glass deliveries – yes, I smashed a couple, sorry! – price labelling (casks), multiple brewery deliveries and bar construction, let’s just say, we were kept fully occupied!

20131008_132243(Bar under construction)

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(Room 3)

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(Room 2 – View toward Food Vendor area)

I enjoyed this hugely. Met some nice volunteers. Got to meet Claudia, Duncan, Rosie and Jamie from the Port Street empire (nice to put names to faces that you see so often!), it was just, FUN.

Thursday

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(Room 2 – early on)

I hate being late. Especially when it’s my own fault. However, I couldn’t turn up covered in emulsion paint, could I? Trust me, It is NOT a good look! So, by the time that Jaz (Arch-Nemesis), Chris (Sacrificial Lamb) and I got in, the place was already busy. Having not eaten since breakfast though, first priority was food. The Meat Paella from Las Paelleras fitted the bill. Lots of lovely beery soaky plump rice grains with oodles of paprika and chorizo and chicken……drool……superb value at £5.

Firstly, with the beer, we need to talk about the measures. These are all priced for the 1/3rd of a pint. As you enter the building you pay/show your ticket, and are given a beer menu for that particular day. You are also given a stemmed glass marked with a line for the 1/3rd pint measure. Trust me, this works. The glass is lovely and delicate (Translation? Easy to smash on the way home!). This measure gives you the opportunity to try more beers. Personally? I just think that it’s more civilised than swilling pints!

At the bottom of the beer list is a wee map, showing where the various locations for functions are located. After a few, trust me, it would be easy to get lost whilst admiring this gorgeous interior!

First beer of the evening had to be light in alcohol, refreshing and hoppy. Quantum NZ Light at 3.6% abv was all that and more. Pale gold, fruity hop nose with the flavours of kiwi and passion fruit in the mouth. Tasty and damned refreshing. Having sat down to enjoy my Quantum with the paella, I was struck by the music. The sound of saxophone. And there they were, up on the balcony. Live music, nice touch. (Of course…if I had been paying attention to the website….)

It was getting a little busier at the bar in room 2, but service was till swift, so I stayed in here for another. Beadica’s Well (Barrel Aged) by Thornbridge. Whilst I hardly have beergasms over Thornbridge’s pale output, the darks generally rock my world. This was no exception. Black with a light creamy head. Smoky wood and toffee nose leading to more woody smoke, some treacle notes with some warming spirit drifting up your nose. Performed the trick of tasting above it’s relatively moderate 5.3% abv strength.

IMAG0029(Bar in Room 1)

Next came a walk into Room 1 to sample one of the IMBC Collaboration beers. Farmhouse IPA with Marble Brewery. At 7.4%, for the price of just a single token, this was a bargain! First on the nose, I got  quite hoppy notes with some yeasty Belgian funk. But in the mouth, the Saison character takes over. Quite spicy, yeasty and with a touch of peachy fruity sweetness. Superb.

IMAG0041(Room 3 – The Music Room)

Into Room 3 now for something a little different. Tea Saison from Buxton Brewery. Made with Cherry and Cranberry fruit teas allegedly! But where fruit teas can be a flavour let-down, this was anything but! Really tart and fruity aroma, the taste was akin to a Kriek, tart and mouth puckering. Really fruity and tart/sour with a finish that was sharp and as dry as a bone. Probably my second favourite of the evening.

Venturing into the Turkish Baths room now for a Dark Arts by Magic Rock – Kegged, therefore slightly too cold for my tastes, this is still a damned tasty strong stout with a firm dark roast malt body and the spiky flavours of bitter chocolate and coffee. A really good beer. Here is where I firmly come down on the cask conditioned side. Texture and temperature. I just think that cask (for me) wins hands down. Do I have all knowledge? Do I bollocks! I just happen to believe that cask conditioned, Dark Arts is a classic and one of my all-time favourites. On keg, it’s simply a really nice strong stout. And cold.

At this point, I went for a looksie into Room 3 where there was a band playing. They were called All We Are, and, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was in company, I could have listened to them all evening. They sounded simply superb.

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Back to room 2 now. Weird Wit Black Jack Brewery collaboration with Weird Beard of Hanwell, W London. At 5% this was hazy gold with a gentle fruity aroma. This got going when it hit your taste buds! Quite full-bodied for a 5% beer, fruity, you could taste the melon as well, but this was simultaneously quite bitter with a marked resinous finish.  tasted a bit like a hybrid of a saison and an IPA. And in a VERY good way!

Stepping up on the abv now, next up was Blackberry King of Clubs by Black Jack Brewery Black and really fruity aroma. This was full of blackberry flavour. A full bodied dark roasted stout full of bitter coffee, chocolate and tart berries. Joint Beer of the Evening in my book! Along with…

Oh yes! From the moment that I saw this coming into the building on Tuesday, I just HAD to have some! Imperial Treacle Stout by Quantum (IMBC Collab beer) It says 8.6% on the menu, but 9.1% on the clip. Ooooohhhh smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back in time for breakfast! Unctuous, silky, oily and oh so bad for you. I REALLY don’t think anyone else should touch this beer. Leave it all for me. There’s a love! Black, alternately sweet with that gooey treacle, then bitter, then fruity. It was just soooo good, er…I mean terrible……er…Just leave it all for me. OK! Young Mr Krause has played another blinder! Cheers Jay.

To be honest, I took it really easy last night. I just enjoyed myself. Long chats with Peter (aka Tandleman) and his lovely lady Eileen to whom I could listen all evening dispensing beery pearls of wisdom (Eileen, of course ;-)) and some cracking chats with Matt from Privateer Beers (should have had his Dark Revenge here, CMON!) and his lovely friends Helen & Maria (I think?). Matt may be moving his brewery soon and it was nice to see him, especially talking positively about the future of the brewery. Helen has connections with the West Riding Refreshment Rooms at Dewsbury Train Station, a place I love of old. Long chat with Helen, birds of a feather views wise.

In summary. The venue is stunning. The beers were excellent and (mostly) well priced. The food was superb and laid on by the Guerilla Eats street food collective. The entertainment was first-rate (I don’t recall music last year?) The PSBH empire have raised the bar again. I could wax even more lyrical, but there are others more eloquent than I who will do that far better.

There is room to breathe – unlike most other fests. Room to chat (and be heard). It;s just civilised.  I enjoyed myself so much, that I completely lost track of time! So much so, that I finally paid attention to one of Matt’s (Privateer) prompts and realised that I had just over 10 minutes to get to Piccadilly and my last bus home (the look in Jaz’s eye indicated that his futon was NOT an option!)

TAXI!!!

Back to work there  (hopefully behind a bar) later – say hello. I’ll (probably be the oldest bloke behind the bars! And no beard!!!)

I’m hearing that there are still some tickets for Sunday going. Do yourself (and your taste buds) a favour. Come on down. Good food, great beer and a SPECTACULAR venue – worth the entry fee alone. Check http://www.indymanbeercon.co.uk/ for details!

On that note (and this may be further added to on Sunday!)…til then

Slainte!

Blather About Bottles – 09/01/2013

It’s that time of the year isn’t it. Christmas has been and gone, as has the bank balance in an orgy of spending! The reins get applied to the strolling. Bugger me I’m fed up! However, the consolation is that it forces me to dig into those boxes stored just off the kitchen. You know, the ones filled with all manner of bottled beer! Malty manna from that place up there, you know…..The Beer Shop!

Anyway, I was under frim (or even firm) orders from Atilla to deplete the stash before I even batted an eyelid at The Beer Shop, Beers of Europe, or even Booths! So, it was with a heavy heart 🙂 that I FORCED myself to locate the bottle opener……

Redwillow Ageless

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This was one of four bottles purchased at the SIBA Festival in Manchester (4 for £9! ) and was the only one of the four to be bottle conditioned. Being about as sensitive as a bull in the proverbial, this one got shaken up. Badly. So, I had to let it lie for a while….

When I finally plucked up the courage to flip the lid, oh boy! I was reaquainted with the knowledge that Redwillow are one of my favourite breweries. This beer (a Double IPA) poured golden with a light head, slightly hazy but the spicy citrus hop aroma hit from the off. At 7.2% abv, this is obviously not a beer to trifle with (insert own sherry reference!). A nice balance between intense hoppyness and firm malt base. Lovely and bitter and really smooth in the mouth for a bottled beer. A fine lasting bitterness in the aftertaste. I like this!

Tatton Brewery – Obscure

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I first clapped eyes on this beer on draught in The Mark Addy in Salford (NOT Manchester – got it?), Jaz had this one whilst I had an Acorn Old Moor Porter. He enjoyed it, but couldn’t quite figure it out. Anyway, a fine colleague of mine (Take a bow Mr D!) managed to pick up a bottle of this for me (and a Beartown Wojtek – see below), for which I was suitably grateful! When I opened it, I was puzzled as hell!!!

5.7% abv. It poured black. To my eyes, a porter or a stout. A cream coloured head…so far so good….then the aroma….sugared grapefruit? Banana Split ice cream? Fudge? WTF is going on? Spicy hops? I needed a lie down. The flavour only befuddled me more! Yes, there was roasted malt in there, and a tinge of dark chocolate. But rhubarb??? The label says “Not Your Obvious Beer” – They’re not kidding either. I love hop monsters and the like, but sometimes…you just need something that makes you think. This made me think in spades. A candidate for my bottled beer of the year! (Going to try to get to the brewery late spring-early summer!)

Beartown Wojtek 5.5% abv

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I had tried for ages to get my hands on a bottle of this! Finally, at the SIBA Fest (see previous blog) I managed it. In with the Redwillow at £2.25. Bargain! Then, when I get into work the next week, that lovely Mr D got me another one! Ta muchly!

A pale gold when poured, with a nice white head. Some nice, fresh yet subtle citrussy hops on the nose. A lovely biscuity malt that reminded me of the base of a good banoffee cheesecake! Balanced up with some nice citrus hop flavour. A nice dry hoppy aftertaste too. Like I said above, sometimes a hop monster isn’t what’s required and a nice well made beer is just what you want. Beartown are proud of the awards they have won for this beer. Rightly so as well. I see quite a bit of their beers in some supermarkets, I just wish this was one of them!

Fyne Ales – Jarl 3.8% abv

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When I first encountered this beer, was the first time I came across Fyne Ales. I’m lucky enough to have a couple of E H Booths supermarkets within a short drive. They stock 4 or 5 of Fyne’s beers. Jarl was the first I tried. There aren’t many beers that shock me, but this most certainly did.

This pours paler than most lagers. The aroma hits you first, some assertive hopping here with grapefuit or apricot prominent. Then the flavour…BANG! Assertive didn’t do it justice….grapefuit again..maybe even a touch of lemon…wow, this is a really hoppy beer. On draught, it would make a fabulous session beer. But herein lies the rub….I’ve never had it on draught….what I would give…….!

Suffice to say, that if anybody hears of it on draught within a 30 minute train journey of Bolton (and told me in time, of course!), I’d be forever in their debt. In the meantime, do yourselves a favour, get to Booths!

Buxton Brewery – Smokey and the Band-Aid 7% abv

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Firstly. Let me get this out of the way. My boss bought me a bottle of this for Xmas. How fecking cool is that eh? (Last year it was Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout!) Needless to say, we get on famously (nice one Mick!) Totally independently, I picked one up at the formidable Beer Shop in Heaton Moor (see previous blog – Best Little Beerhouse…..), so I have a spare. Lucky me!

This is one of Buxtons “Special Reserve Series” (number 2) and is a Smoked Rye Porter. It’s also bloody gorgeous!

Pouring a deep deep brown, almost black. The aroma? Bonfire debris. Intense smoky bacon, Lagavulin (my favourite single malt!), peat smoke.

The flavour? Initially smooth, slightly sweet with some smokiness. Then the peatyness fills the sides of your mouth like an Islay single malt. For the strength, this is surprisingly warming. A lovely smooth almost cask-like texture, the smokiness isn’t overpowering, it’s just mmmmmm……..

A fabulous beer! Another bottle of the year candidate. Buxton just keep making bloody good beer. I just need to get hold of a Series 3 – and if anyone has a Series 1 knocking about……..!

Just one more thing. 2012 was a year of rediscovering beer again. Thanks to my good buddy Jaz for that! Now seeing as everybody seems to give laurels out….who am I to buck the trend. Nice and simple though. Just best bottle and best draught for me!

Draught

Tricky this. All through this blog, I’ve rattled on consistently about how my favourite beer is Magic Rock Dark Arts. And how I love the Dark Side. But, Magic Rock beat themselves! All because of a night that started in BrewDog on Peter Street in Manchester…..

1. Magic Rock – Human Cannonball (9.2%) – Simply wrecked my mouth that night –  an absolute hop assault – unforgettable.

2. Magic Rock – Dark Arts 6% (need I say more?)

3. Ilkley Siberia 5.9% – Thank you Ilkley and Melissa Cole for this rhubarb gem – a classic!

Bottle

This was the year I started to truly appreciate bottle conditioned beer. And strong beer. Oh sod it!

1. Tatton Obscure – see above – Truly astonishing!

2. BrewDog Abstrakt 7 (12.5%) – Thank you to Will at IndyManBeerCon for this. Loved working and drinking at that festival. And buying this! (Port, Whisky,Xmas Cake…..ooohhhh)

3. Buxton – Smokey and the Band-Aid – see above. Subtly smoky, just a great advertisement of the brewing arts.

Right, enough. Another stroll soon as the bank is replenished!

Until next time.

Slainte!

Impromptu Stroll Northern Quarter 01/12/2012

As the week drew to a close, the yearning for draught beer grew stronger. Finally, on Saturday evening, I could stand the drought no longer. Being able to resist anything except temptation the Oracle was consulted and tea-leaves were read. The stars aligned over Manchester. But where? A quick word with your friend and mine, indicated a meeting place of….The French Xmas Market on King Street. What MADNESS was this? A bar, with no real ale!

Not only that, but KRONENBOURG! Needless to say, having braved herds of people and the chill air, I plumped for a swift Vin Chaud avec Cognac (get Moi!). However, there was only so much Allo Allo accentry I could prendre, so, the metaphorical shepherds crook was wielded, the madding crowds were braved and we found ourselves hiking across town toward Le Quartier de Nord (ENOUGH FRANGLAIS!!!) and approached……

The Angel

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As with everything else in Manchester this mad evening, it was crammed with bibulous humanity. It was quite a feat to reach the bar, but, after some weaving about we got there. The usual fine selection of beers were present (including an intriguing Black Isle Stout at 10.6% abv!). However, for the first beer of the evening, I chose a beer from Liverpool Organic – Shipwreck IPA at 6.5%. This was a big beer. A sturdy malt base overlaid with huge tropical hop flavours, mango? Grapefruit? Very assertive and very moreish. Not a beer to trifle with but hugely enjoyable. Another brewery producing an exceptional range of beers. (Kitty Wilkinson Stout being a personal favourite!). Jaz had a Culloden Oatmeal Stout by Beer House Brewery. It looked lovely (and tasted mighty fine – so I’m told!)

I wanted more. I wanted a half of that Black Isle Stout! But the bar was thronged. So, disappointed, we strode off toward…..

The Smithfield

(pic courtesy of http://www.the-smithfield-hotel.co.uk)

It was almost a year to the day, the last time I’d been in the Smithfield. Too long. Often bypassed en-route to other bars. No longer. The Smithfield has the feel of a welcoming Salford local. The kind of local I wish I had near me. A wide selection of beers, including a house beer by Facers (formerly of Salford, now of Flintshire, North Wales). As we walked in, a game of pool was going, the Italian Football (the Turin Derby, as you’re asking!) was on telly and a couple next to us were serenading us (unbidden!). Facers Porter was my choice in here. A dark brown beer at 5.5% abv, a slightly sweet start gave way to fruity dark roasted malt, the sweetness tending toward a mocha coffee kind of thing. A nice pint in a lovely friendly boozer. Certainly worth a visit. Onward we go…….

Bar Fringe

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Every time I go into The Fringe, more quirkiness reveals itself! From the breweriana on the ceiling (see above, literally!) to the Green Man wall hanging and the Motorbike on the ledge (see previous visit), The Fringe never fails to please. Great Jukebox doing sterling work again, the bar got very full as soon as Jaz and I got served. A pint of Prescott Ruby Stout was order of the day. A dark brown, rather that jet black, smooth roasted flavour was had. Didn’t catch the strength, but approx 4.5%. A very nice pint indeed.

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(Design – Bar Fringe. Pic – Yours Truly!)

I love The Fringe. Would gladly have stayed for more, but it was getting busy. And, how could this be a ‘stroll’ without moving on…..

The Crown & Kettle

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A short walk from The Fringe, just across Oldham Road. A gem of a different hue. Another well stocked bar, plenty of choice. But, you know me. When The Dark Side calls, I submit totally. On this occasion, Peerless Oatmeal Stout from the Wirral.

A 5% abv Stout. A lovely smooth flavour, dark roasted with a hint of sweetness from the oatmeal. Another excellent beer from Peerless. I took my time enjoying its dark pleasures whilst a fabulous musical selection washed over me. Somebody working tonight had an obvious love of Northern Soul! Bobby Hebb, Marvin Gaye, Frankie Valli……

Jaz advised me to have a little look around. Once I’d taken my eyes off the poster featuring the stunning Christina Hendricks, the architecture of this great pub was glorious. Vaulted ceilings, Stained glass. This is a gorgeous building housing 3 separate drinking rooms, each room having a different feel.

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20121201_212214[1]   (I love a nice feature…or 2)

Finishing the Peerless. We headed in the general direction of Port Street to check out a rumour that 3 Magic Rock ales (including the immense Dark Arts) were on. However, that’s a long walk. And I’m sure you’ll have concerns about dehydration (as did we!), so a stop at……

Soup Kitchen ……was prescribed – medicinal purposes of course! Quite busy here on Spear St! But getting to the bar was easy enough. It didn’t take long to select a pint of Dark Star Old Chestnut. 4%abv. Not a Stout, not a Porter, not a Mild. Hmmm……Is this a Brown Ale? A darkish brown beer, an initial slight sweetness gave way to something much more mysterious. Some slight bitterness. Couldn’t quite place this one in a category. A very nice ale nonetheless from an excellent brewery. (Espresso Stout anyone?)

Now then. Off to Port Street. Disaster! I followed a couple of lads heading for the door and No Entry! The place was heaving. Slightly deflated at no Magic Rock…. we headed for pastures new…at least for me.

Kosmonaut

(Needless to say, courtesy of  http://www.kosmonaut.co)

As stated. I was a Kosmonaut virgin. Up the steps into the bar. Excellent tuneage pumping out. Proper Saturday night feel. Jaz slotted straight in at the bar. Nice friendly staff. Excellent vibe generally.

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2 bottles of Goose Island Matilda were soon to hand. described as a strong Belgian ale, this had echoes of a fine wheaty beer to me, a bit of coriander and clove on the tongue. Possibly deceptive, as I was drinking from the bottle. Nice beer though.

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(Anyway, back to those friendly bar persons!)

On seeking the facilities, a whole new level opened up! Downstairs, as well as the loos, there is another room with loads of space down there. This is one excellent venue. Apparently, they do excellent food as well. Like a certain Austrian exile “I’ll be back”.

We tried our luck back at Port Street. Jaz went first this time and entry was gained. Busy, as you would expect. Just enough time to wolf a pint of Magic Rock Dark Arts. Now officially my favourite beer and a more than adequate night cap! Deep dark roast, by turn buttery toast and coffee roast, full of flavour and dangerously, dangerously alluring and moreish! Unfortunately I had a bus to catch.

Back to the 37 bus and back to that beer desert that is Farnworth. Ticket shown, iPod on…..home.

Next day, no wallet…….bugger!

With that……Til next time…..

Slainte!