Indy Man Beer Con is the event of the year for craft beer lovers.
Organised by the team behind Port Street Beer House, Common and The Pilcrow, every autumn it pulls in the best independent brewers from across the country for a four-day celebration of craft beers.
Now entering its eighth year at the stunning Grade II listed Victoria Baths on Hathersage Road, the festival will bring a total of 64 brewers to Manchester between from 3rd-6th October.
Special brews to look out for include Omnipollo’s 12% imperial stout Agamemnon Monster Shake made with maple syrup and bacon; an 8% Pohjala Gose brewed with lingonberry, heather tips and hone; and Saint Mars of the Desert’s seminal Jack D’Or Saison – the beer credited with kicking off the US Saison revolution.
On top of all this, there’ll be street food from Holy Crab, Bundobust and Honest Crust amongst others and a host of guided rare beer tastings, all set to the backdrop of local DJs and live bands.
This year’s breweries
There will be 22 fixed breweries at Victoria Baths throughout the course of the festival, with over 40 more doing exclusive runs on Thursday and Friday, or Saturday and Sunday.
As usual, there’s plenty of Manchester breweries attending, with Cloudwater, Squawk, Track, Blackjack, Pomona Island, Marble and Runaway all making an appearance over the course of the weekend.
Other breweries from slightly further afield include Buxton Brewery, Red Willow (Macclesfield), Thirst Class (Stockport) and Thornbridge (Bakewell).
To help you break everything down, IMBC have created an app to help you find your perfect beer. Use it to search for your favourite styles, keep up to date with what’s currently pouring, and get notifications when new beers go on tap.
For those curious creatures who fancy something other than beer, there will be artisanal sodas from Hackney-based Square Root Soda and fermented kombucha tea from Booch and Brew.
There’ll be natural wines from Huddersfield wine shop and bar Kwas, plus a cocktail bar serving brewery-made gins, primo beer cocktails and classics.
Find ciders from Hogan’s Cider, Pilton, and Ross-On-Wye in room 1, and keep an eye out for Idle Hands’ caffeinated pick-me-ups.
It’s worth knowing that the token pricing system has changed. Last year a token would’ve got you a third of a pint. This year it’s a little bit dearer, with 80% of beers available for one, around 19% for two, and about 1% for three.
Tokens are available to purchase at the venue using cash or card. If you have beer tokens left over from last year, make sure to bring them along as they will still be accepted.
You can also use three of your beer tokens to gain access to tastings.
Tastings and talks
Thursday night sees three separate talks from Burning Sky, Deya and Track.
Compare Burning Sky’s first-ever beer at 6.30pm with their most recent creation and uncover the story of the Firle brewery’s history, as told by head brewer Mark Tranter.
At 7.30pm, Deya will crack out a super rare bottle tasting of Blend 1, which is aged in red wine barrels with different mixed cultures then primed with syrup made from locally foraged elderflowers.
At 8.30pm, Track will hosth a canned tasting of their Sonoma APA and Bluzon beers.
Friday afternoon sees appearances from Fantome, Overworks and Arclight. An esteemed producer of farmhouse Saisons, Fantome hosts an intimate tasting at 12.30pm.
At 1.30pm, Overworks’ Richard Kilcullen will bring a tasting of their 2019 IMBC collaboration Joyous Event.
From 2.30pm Michigan’s Arclight Brewing Company make their IMBC debut pouring bottles of Soursmith Red Raspberry and Black Raspberry.
Come the evening, there’ll be more tastings from Portland’s Cascade, Denmark’s Dry & Bitter, and Stockholm’s Omnipollo breweries.
At 6.30pm, Cascade will showcase bottles of Kentucky Peach (a sour wheat and quad ale blend aged in bourbon and wine barrels), Pearpawsterous (an Upland brewing collab using Oregan pears and Indiana-grown paw pears), and Sang Du Chene (strong sour blond and triple ales aged in three large format oak casks).
At 7.30pm, Dry & Bitter will be popping bottles from their new sour project, giving beer lovers an exclusive first taste.
At 8.30pm, Omnipollo cracks open hand-painted magnums of their fruity, wood-aged sour Omnipollo #1 – the result of a monster multi-collaboration with six other brewers. You’ll also get a taste of their 12% imperial stout Agamemnon Monster Shake, made with real bacon.
Saturday afternoon features appearances from American brewers Creature Comforts, Burning Sky and Wild Beer.
At 12.30pm, Creature Comforts showcase wild and clean beers from the archives.
Burning Sky return at 1.30pm with Mixed Emotions, a collaborative blend created alongside The Kernal, Mills and Olivers. Taste the individual beers first, then the blend itself.
At 2.30pm, Wild Beer co-founder Brett Ellis will showcase the 2019 fruit harvest beers, Fruits Of Our Labour.
Come the evening, brewers To Ol, Fuerst Wiacek and Pohjala move into the tasting room.
At 6.30pm try the big winner from To Ol’s Mr series, Mr Brown – a 9% imperial brown ale.
At 7.30pm, Berlin favourites Fuerst Wiacek throw a can party with big, fruity IPAs and other fruit-led beers.
At 8.30pm Pohjala has special tastings of Torm (an 8% gose brewed with lingonberry, heather tips and honey), Cocobanger (a 12.5% imperial stout brewed with coconut and caturra coffee), and Pime Oo Px (a 13.9% sherry barrel-aged limited version of Pime Oo).
For the last day, there are more tastings from Burning Sky and Cascade as well as Boston brewers Saint Mars of the Desert.
2pm sees Burning Sky cracks open a few magnums of their ultra-rare new blend Assemblage.
From 3pm, Saint Mars of the Desert will take you through the saison credited with kicking off the saison explosion in the US, Jack D’or.
To help keep you going, there’ll be street food from Manchester’s top foodies. But unlike the bars, this year’s vendors will operate on a cash and card basis only.
Firebird Hope will be there with their fried chicken and seitan sandwiches, and bao bun lovers can rely on Dim Sum Su to deliver.
There’ll be vegan kebabs from Doner Summer, rich pies from the Great North Pie Co, and hearty burritos courtesy of Neato Burrito.
If you’ve missed out on a ticket for one of the sessions, fear not. There’s plenty of fringe events going on around town.
Thursday sees a Jester King showcase at Port Street Beer House, Brewdog’s Overworks showcase at Common and a Pomona Island tap takeover at The Beagle.
On Saturday, Barcelona brewers Garage take over at PSBH, Runaway Brewery host an IMBC special at their taproom, Northern Monk present Canadian brewers Alvarado Street, and Brewdog Manchester host a mini Scottish showcase from 6 Degrees North and 71 Brewing. The Lock Inn will also host a range of special beers at their Withington Public Hall Institute takeover.
Finally, on Sunday Aussie favourites Cascade drop new releases into the PSBH fridges.