My memories of Indy Man Beer Con 2022 remain vivid, culminating in a desperate tumble down uneven Edwardian stone steps as I scrambled to use up my remaining drinks tokens at the end of the Saturday afternoon session. Miraculously, like some charmed mountain goat, I arose unscathed. Most of my tokens had been spent at the 3 Fonteinen stand, supping their sublime Belgian qeuzes. I hope this year’s emphasis on sustainability at the UK’s best craft beer festival doesn’t preclude such overseas legends.
This year’s IMBC, returning to Manchester’s Victoria Baths for its 10th year, is all about discoveries. Last year’s joyful event introduced me to the ‘honeyed epiphany’ of wasp yeast. Thanks Wild Beer Co (a sign of the difficult times for the industry it has since collapsed into administration).
There’s already a sweet smell of success about Indy Man 2023 (October 5-8). Tickets, frozen at 2022 prices, went on sale on Thursday, May 18 and already both Saturday sessions are sold out with tickets ‘running low’ for both Thursday and Friday evening sessions. There is greater availability for the Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoons, where tickets cost £14.50, as opposed to £19. For true devotees there are also Full Fat tikcets for all sessions at £75. To snap up your slot before it’s too late (plus advance deals on token bundles) visit this link. Breweries involved will be named nearer the time. International participants will have to guarantee their beers are transported to the festival in a way that uses the most carbon efficient modes of freight.
Tokens will function in the same way as they did in 2022: namely, that it’ll be one token for one third of a beer across all three days. Organisers will also be reinstating the ability to sell back unused tokens to the festival at the end of each session. Which could save this over-keen punter from ale-addled dismemberment!
Sup up! Communal beer fun before Indy Man
Real ale diehards will, of course, home in on London’s Olympia for the Great British Beer Festival (August 1-5). Personally, I find supping on this kind of scale overwhelming. More manageable is a local CAMRA event such as the 35th Stockport Beer Festival (June 22-24) at its new venue, the Masonic Guildhall. One of the best trad gatherings, it promises over 250 beers ciders and perries.
Still, I don’t expect I’ll make it there either, but I have purchased advance tickets for two delightful festivals at once under the radar breweries, respectively in Lancashire and Derbyshire, that book-end big brother Greater Manchester.
Rivington Brewing Co Farm Trip (August 31-September 3)
I’ve voiced my admiration before for this farm-based craft brewery with its scenic hilltop beer garden. Across one special long weekend they fill it to the brim to showcase their favourite beer peers. This year they welcome over 60 breweries from across the globe, pouring across 50+ lines, natural wines, gin and cocktail bars, local street food vendors and live music. Book here. There is availability (£12.50) on the opening Thursday and the Sunday (Family Day) and a few tickets for the Friday, but Saturday is sold out. Also a limited amount of caravan/campervan packages remain.
Torrside Smokefest (September 16-17)
Franconia is the German home of Rauchbier. Hence this single-minded New Mills brewery have named one of their beers after it, brewed with 85 per cent smoked malt. Each year across two eight hour sessions they replicate the Bamberg heartland of this style. You have to book in advance an there are £15 tickets left for the Sunday. Book here. For your £15 you get a memorial glass and your first distinctly smoky third, then access to over 20 similar tipples plus smoked toppings on your pizza.
Summer Beer Thing (June 30-July 2)
Meanwhile, there’s always Indy Man’s little brother, which used to be based in Sadler’s Yard before Cloudwater Brewing picked up the Pilcrow and turned it into Sadler’s Cat. Now Kampus’s canalside garden will be host its eclectic range of craft beers from across the UK. A big plus in this buzzing urban neighbourhood are ballast options from the likes of The Great North Pie Co, Nell’s Pizza, Madre and Pollen Bakery. Tickets for the three weekend sessions range from £6 to £10 (including branded glass). Buy them here.