Category Archives: Beer Festivals

IndyMan Beer Con 2013 – A Preview

Independent Beer Festivals are on the rise, and, as always, there’s one that kick-starts the revolution. Last year’s IndyMan Beer Con saw the good folk of Manchester pull together the most exciting, representative-of-the-zeitgeist beer parties I’d ever seen; uniting cask, keg, old and young, male and female, food,  music and good causes all under one unique roof in the Victoria Baths. The fact that IndyMan became the yardstick for independent Northern beer festivals after only one year shows how influential it has been.
So, with this year’s event around the corner, I had a quick chat with co-organiser Claudia Asch; who many from around these parts will be familiar with – such is the energy and hard work that she, Jonny Heyes (owner of Port Street Beer House, The Beagle and Common), Duncan Sime (events for the group), Jamie-Leigh Hargreaves (press, volunteers)  and Rosie Setterfield-Price (PSBH’s Manager) bring to not only Indy Man, but for beer in the Manchester area in general. How are they going to avoid that difficult second album? The answer, it seems, is simply hard work.
Photo: Luke Chase

Photo: Luke Chase

‘Last year’s IndyMan could not have gone better for us; the response was overwhelming. This year, we definitely know that the stakes are high and expectations are raised, not least because there are now many more non-CAMRA beer festivals on the scene. The idea is to provide a taste of the diverse world of beer, for those who are already immersed in it, and for those just discovering new breweries and who are interested in learning more about the processes behind creating these beers, in stunning surroundings.’
‘All three pools will have bars this year, with the smallest pool also featuring a stage for occasional musical performances. Each pool will have keg and cask beers; we think that mixing up cask and keg will hopefully get people interested in trying more different beers. Furthermore, there are many brewers that casking and kegging, so it makes sense for them to present their beers in the best possible format.’
IMBC-collab-web-260x180The brewers involved reads like a list of who’s who of Northern Brewing; one-off beers have been brewed by the likes of Rooster’s, Quantum, Buxton, Thornbridge and Marble (you can read the exact details of those beers here) and if that doesn’t whet your whistle, the likes of Arbor, Cromarty, First Chop, Lovibonds, Tocalmatto, Hawkshead, Redchurch, Red Willow, Tiny Rebel and many, many more are supporting the cause and getting involved.
One aspect that I thought was slightly off-kilter last year was the use of the little side-rooms, the nooks and crannies of the baths. This year, a familiar brewery will be taking up residence away from the main drag. ‘ Magic Rock will be transforming the Turkish baths into their bar area this year – it’s bound to be a really popular spot, with a rotation of six of their beers on offer for the duration of the festival.’
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Food-wise, Guerilla Eats will be coordinating all the local street-food traders – and theres’ a guided, beer-matched meal, too.  ‘With eight street food traders, we’re confident there will be something for everyone to help line stomachs, and of course there is also the Tim Anderson meal on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening. North Tea Power will supply coffee lovers during the Saturday lite and Sunday session. Cider lovers will get their fill, too, with six handpulls serving a variety of ciders from all over the UK.’
But wait – there’s more. ‘We’ve just announced two special tasting sessions with Beermoth,  during the Saturday lite session and Sunday session.’ Claudia continues. ‘On Saturday, there’s the chance to taste Boulevard beers, from Kansas City, Missouri, which are rarely seen in this country, and on Sunday, there will be a tasting of wild ales with Brettanomyces.’
It all sounds wonderful and I for one, can’t wait. I’ve had my tickets since March, and that’s some stretch for a Beer Festival – and there’s only a handful left.  I’ll leave the final word to Claudia: ‘The idea is to provide a taste of the diverse world of beer, both for those who are already immersed in it, and for those just discovering new breweries and who are interested in learning more about the processes behind creating these beers, in the stunning surroundings of the Victoria baths. We hope to see you there!

IndyMan Beer Con 2012

And so; It arrives. IndyMan; the most eagerly-anticipated beer festival of the year. Well, if you’re from the North, anyway. The hour came where you could finally put away those drool-inducing PDF’s of beer lists, let the hype from the breweries involved finally get to you, and get involved. After all, the essence of the entire festival seemed to be to get involved.

Was it good? Of course it was. It was better than that; it was...really good. There was a strong whiff of teamwork and community coming from the organisers since day one, an insistence that this was actually your festival, that we  – the movement of craft beer – have been building up towards. This is our revolution. This, it was felt, was something that has been missing from Beer Festivals of late.

However, that’s another story for another time.

The location was excellent; Victoria Baths is a lovely, crumbling old Queen of a building full of nooks and crannies that are interesting enough before you’ve even thought about sticking food and beer in there. I don’t think I’ve ever spent time before drinking a drop of beer at a festival tip-toeing around with my drinking buddies,  marvelling at the bright Autumn sun illuminating the stained glass windows and speaking in hushed tones lest the jade-tiled walls amplify up our disbelieving gasps at the sheer grandeur of it all. Yes; let’s have more festivals in interesting places, please.

Onto the pick of the day’s beer; Brodie’s Stepney Green Steam was first up; less a California Common than a silky, elegant Pale Ale with a strong leaning towards Kiwi Fruit and Gooseberry. A long, dry finish made sure that you were thinking of another before you got halfway through your first. After reading ATJ’s recent piece on Wild Beer Company I couldn’t resist sampling Modus Operandi; a real statement of a first brew. An old ale in a modern jacket, it was strong, smooth and awash with mild vanilla, cherry-skin and an undertow of nutty, almond-cake notes. My tasting notes read ‘Old Peculier on steroids‘ – if you’re a fan of the titular Yorkshire Strong ale and want to try something that progresses those flavours, but adds a feral note, then Modus Operandi is the one for you. Wonderful.

Lovibonds are a brewery that, as a Yorkshireman, I’d never tried before, but I wasn’t going to miss out on trying. Henley Gold proved to be all that I’d read; a superbly balanced, clear-as-a-bell Wheat beer, with every knob dialled down to ‘smooth’; creamy malt, estery Banana notes and a refreshingly sweet, graceful finish. It would have been easy to drink this all afternoon, but decorum would simply not allow.

Onwards to Rooster’s Dry-Hopped Yankee; a firm favourite re-imagined with a sprinkle of Hops in the cask and  – wow –  what a difference it made. All those notes you’ve come to expect from Yankee are there alright; digestive-biscuit malt and a dry finish; but overlaid with a superbly fresh, peppery-herbal-then-fruitbowl aroma. This kind of experimentation – producing one-off, tweaked beers – was happening all over the festival, and was one of the things that piqued my interest from the start.

Keeping things in Yorkshire, Ilkley’s Green Goddess surprised; purely for not being what I expected. What I expected was a crisp, clean Pale Ale that showcased the green hops that went into it; but a dose of Belgian yeast saw off any real hop aroma and replaced it with those wonderful woody, estery notes that we all know and love. A very good Pale Ale/Belgian Pale hybrid – don’t get me wrong – but not what I expected at all.

Summer Wine’s Aoraki Red IPA didn’t disappoint in the assertiveness stakes; a full-bodied, sweet IPA with a wonderfully full, herbal/ pine-needle nose and a long, long, long bitterness that eased before bringing a touch more sweetness to the palate – I’d like to have some more of this at home to ponder over. Kernel’s Topaz re-wrote the sweet IPA rulebook by providing masses of Orange-pith and Lychee aroma with a relatively easy-going 6% abv; and served colder due to the keg dispense, ended up being ruinously drinkable.

Despite all these big-hitters, my beer of the weekend was a humble little 3.6% abv brew called London Sour from those guys  and girls at Brodies. Uber-pale, light as a feather and lip-puckeringly sour, this is the little Berliner-Weisse that could, for sure. Supremely thirst-quenching, packing all the lemon-pith and bone-dry finish of fresh Tarte Au Citron and blending it with the high dryness of the freshest G&T you could imagine, this beer is more fun than a basket of lemons and twice as sharp. I had three; and I could have drunk more. Bravo, Brodies. You’re welcome in the North anytime.

IndyMan managed to pack great beer (Cask, Keg, Bottle), tasty food that is borne out of the same independent spirit and thirst for flavor over profit that the breweries possess, and pride at the city’s civic buildings into one great weekend. The traders, cider-makers, tea-makers, pork-pullers (oo-er!), coffee-grinders, hot-dog conjurers,  speakers and tasting-session hosters, brewers and staff of the likes of Common, Port Street Beer House and The Grove should be very, very proud of. The atmosphere was great; friendly,  reverent without being preachy, and inclusive. Community, indeed.

UPDATE –  There’s another great roundup and some lovely pictures here. 

Independent Beer Fests A-Go-Go

Last reminder for a couple of independent beer fests that are coming up. Leeds International Beer Fest will feature music, food and beer from the likes of Hardknott, Quantum, Ilkley, Kernel,  Hawkshead and Buxton amongst others and bars from such Leeds luminaries as North, Castro and Friends of Ham. It starts this weekend, and there are tickets available – as well as the need for more volunteers.

Manchester’s IndyMan Beer Convention takes place a few weeks after, at the start of October, in the opulent surroundings of  The Victoria Baths. If you’ve never had a beer in a disused swimming pool before (You haven’t? Why not?) then now’s your chance. With a great range of cask and kegged beer from the likes of Brodies, Steel City, Tynebank, Gadds and food from Manchester’s finest independent food purveyors, this is another one for the calendar. Again, volunteers are still needed, so get in touch via the website if you want to help out.

It’s not all Northern though – Dark Star are holding their HopFest at the end of September. A celebration of the humble hop, it’s a three-day event of food, music and – of course – beer, culminating in the launch of their Green Hop IPA. Check out the website for full info, but with talks by leading hop merchant Charles Faram, cycle rides, hogroasts and Brewery Tours, it looks like a cracker – and one that makes me wish I lived closer!

>LS6 Beer Festival

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…Just a quick note to remind you that this weekend sees the second LS6 Beer Festival in The Left Bank, Burley/Hyde Park (depending how you look at it). It’s all in aid of charity – Village To Village – and has a great beer selection of truly local beers from the likes of Burley Street, Ilkley, Rooster’s, Abbeydale and Beartown amongst others.

There are bands playing throughout the day, and it’s very much a ‘Music and Beer Festival’, so if you like to see local talent thrashing away with your pint then you know where to be this weekend. The website advises tickets and arriving early. Directions, the Beer list and Band Roster can be found here….

>Rotherham Real Ale & Music Festival 2011

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I just thought I’d give a shout to some very worthy causes being promoted by Rotherham’s Real Ale & Music Festival this year (2nd-5th March). The festival is in aid of The Rotherham Hospice, Weston Park Cancer Charity, Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice and Safe at Last . Not only is the festival being held in very good cause, Magna have donated their facilities for this year’s fest.

So, good causes and a unique venue. What about the beer? Judging from the beer list, you’ve got an excellent display of Northern Brewing, with my personal pick being the range from Crown and the new Nerotype Brew 1 from SummerWine.

>Festival Round-Up

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Ok, folks, just time for a quick beer festival round-up; just in case the World Cup isn’t your cup of tea (or pint of beer). Clifford’s first Beer festival takes place at the village hall on 19/06/10, and is raising funds for the hall and the local footy team – so it’s all good. The beer range is a showcase for the region with Acorn, Elland, Saltaire, Abbeydale, Brown Cow, Great Heck, Hawkshead and Ilkley breweries all supplying for the festival. Clifford’s a lovely part of Yorkshire, too.

Speaking of lovely parts of Yorkshire, The White Bear in Masham is holding their 9th annual Beer fest on the weekend of 25/06/10. Much bigger, and across the pennines, is Chorlton’s Beer Festival on the 2nd and 3rd of July. With over 50 ales on offer, I’d expect the usual eclectic festival mix. Last year saw local heroes like Marble stack up against more travelled breweries such as Purple Moose, Dark Star and Dunham Massey.

For our friends north of the border (of which we have many, you lovely, lovely people), there’s the big one – The Scottish Real Ale Festival 2010. Held on the 24th. 25th and 26th of June at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, beers from Black Isle, Harviestoun, Sulwath and Williams Bros are likely to be amongst many on offer. And if in Wales – don’t despair – there’s one for you too: The Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival is taking place at Cardiff International Arena on the weekend of June 10th. There’s plenty of great welsh beers on the list, too – Breconshire, Evan Evans, Otley and Vale Of Glamorgan to name a few.
So – support your local independent breweries and pubs as well as your team in the upcoming month.

>Skipton Beer Festival 2010

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Yesterday – a lovely, sunny day in Skipton. Maybe not the best day do be sitting in a town hall, but there you go – when it comes to beer fests, only a few have precious outdoor seating. Plus, you often get pleasant surprise. Keighley & Craven CAMRA did well – the beers on offer were generally excellent, and, as hoped, did indeed contain a pleasant surprise.

Rodham’s excellent IPA started things off. I wish I could get my hands on Rodham’s beers more often, because I’ve yet to be let down by them. The IPA is pale, with a lovely malt backbone and tonnes of citrus hops dominating both the aroma and the taste. The hoppiness stays with you long after the sip, and along with my second choice of Marble’s gloriously refreshing Pint, had me pining for a beer garden again.

Still, onwards and upwards. Triple FFF’s ludicrously-named (It’s a song by Cream) Pressed Rat & Warthog flew the flag for ruby-accented milds; a nice undercurrent of biscuit and a decent hop aroma amongst the fruit made this a moreish pint, and Dark Horse’s Best (chosen because I’m such a fan of their Hetton Pale) didn’t disappoint either – an eminently drinkable best with a slightly raisin-led flavour.

The real star of the show, however, was Nethergate’s Umbel Magna. Basically their stalwart Old Growler with added coriander, I really didn’t know what to expect. Given that my only experience of Coriander in beers are firmly in the Wit stable, this half of dark, creamy beer didn’t fill me with excitement. But after one sniff – wow. What an aroma. Malt sweetness tempered with a massively rich burst of black pepper. I expected the beer to be astringent and harsh – in reality it was smooth, with a slightly creamy hint, and only the tiniest of heat from the coriander coming in late in the sip. The aroma, however, stuck with me. What a pleasure to try this genuinely unique and well-balanced beer. That’s what beer festivals are for.

Later, we finished the day off with a few pints of Rudgate’s Ruby Mild in the always – pleasant environs of The Narrowboat. Overall, a decent day, with plenty of beer. And to cap it off, Leeds won. The sun was shining, indeed.

>Leeds CAMRA Beer Festival 2010

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…Well, that’s it. Over for another year. Leeds’s beer festival seems to get more popular year on year, and that’s got to be a good thing. The beer list for this year’s fest really did impress me – there some great beers coming in from all over the UK, and although we love local beer, for me, the main point of a beer fest is to try something you’ve never tried before. And we had lots of opportunity to do that this weekend – so many thanks to the hard-working folk of Leeds CAMRA. Stars, the lot of you.

Anyway, onto the beer – and I’ll try to keep it to stand-out beers only. Mordue’s Workie Ticket is an award-winner for a reason – it’s a great pint and stood head and shoulders above quite lot of what was sampled over the weekend – if you look up ‘Great, solid english bitter’ in the dictionary, this should pop up. Slight raisin in the body but predominantly toffee-led, with a nutty, rich finish, a pint of a good beer like this makes you appreciate ‘brown beer’ again. Really, it does.

….But it wasn’t beer of the festival. For me, this was Nottingham’s Rock Mild – another bitter, although on the milder scale of things. Lusciously dark, with a full, red fruit-led body, the aroma of blackcurrant with a hint of smoke coming off this beer was amazing. Of all the beers tried, this left the biggest impression, and yet I probably expected the least from it. And therein lies your first beer lesson: try everything. You may be surprised.

Onwards and upwards. I can’t say no to a Purple Moose, so the ever-excellent Dark Side of The Moose was followed by another Welsh beer, Tomos Watkins’s OSB, which was another flavourful bitter, full of biscuit and nuttiness, and massively satisfying.

Back to Yorkshire. Wharfebank’s Slinger’s Gold went by way too fast – super-easy drinking pale ale with a pleasing grassiness/straw on the nose. I’ll be keeping an eye on this new brewery from Otley. Keeping things in the pale ball-park (and urgently resisting temptation to get involved with the keg of Summer Lightning), I opted for Spire’s Good as Gold, which again hit all the right spots in a sherbety, pale, slightly lemony pale ale that refreshed the palate. Again, I don’t get to try Spire’s ales up north all that much, but I always enjoy it, and at 3.8%abv I could have drunk a lot more of it. The same goes for Goose Eye’s Hop Pot, which although drew giggles at the name, turned out to be a real find, with a great grapefruit/fresh cut grass aroma and a super-pale body that only reinforced my view that the Keighley-based Brewery are one of the unsung heroes of Yorkshire brewing.

Green Jack’s Orange Wheat proved to be a disappointment – neither orangey or wheat-y, but Liverpool Organic’s Bier Head was another pleasant surprise, a clean koelsch-type beer that would chill down wonderfully. This was my last beer of the festival and refreshed a weekend-jaded palate perfectly.

Bring on 2011.

>Foley’s Irish Beer Fest

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If you fancy an alternative to the usual stout-related antics this St Patrick’s day, head to Foleys for thier Irish Beer festival. Beers from Hilden, Franciscan Well and White Gypsy on offer plus more. Needless to say I’ll be about, and reporting as such soon after the event. Check it out here.

>National Winter Ales Festival 2010

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…Well, a good day was had by all yesterday at the National Winter Ales Fest in Manchester. Before getting into the beers, I’d just like to thank the Venue and the Organisers for such a good festival – it doesn’t sound like much to organise the basics such as friendly, knowledgeable staff, a great, spacious venue, and a cracking beer list, but if you go to enough of these events you’ll know it is – and CAMRA did really well here. The boys, so to speak, have done good.

Anyway – onto the beer. Despite my initial despair at missing Robinson’s Chocolate Tom (but that’s what you get for going on the last day – damn having to work!!), my pint of, well, Marble’s Pint more than made up for it. I’ve had this a few times before but I really need to start lobbying pubs in Leeds to get it – such grapefruit on the nose, a burst of tropical fruit on the tongue and a surprisingly restrained bitterness for such a fruity beer. It’s wonderful stuff, put a smile on my face, and set the tone for rest of the day.

Despite what you might personally think about Cain’s, I am a stickler for their Fine Raisin Beer – so to try it on draught was a real must for me. Dark amber in colour, with an exceedingly malt-cereal body, it’s a great beer. The juicy, slightly candied raisin note comes in right and the end, and stops the beer being cloying. A treat.

Other beers to impress me throughout the day were Hawkshead’s Organic Stout, which managed to be wonderfully smokey and roasty without being heavy, Bernard’s Pilsner, which provided a great, cold zing and cleansed the palate after lunch, and Otley’s wonderful 08 – pale, really smooth and refreshing, but then finishing with a big hit of warming alcohol. Perfect for weather like this, and proof that a well-brewed strong golden ale can still be found in the UK.
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