The dream went something like this,
To the sound of “All the Young Dudes”, a gaggle of crop-bearded, skinny, youngsters dressed in Paisley shirts and custom made brogues descend in a fog of dry ice. Accompanying them is a bevy of beauties who seductively play with their CO2 regulators. Meanwhile, a group of fat, sweating CAMRA types in tight t-shirts and open-toe sandals struggle to roll out the barrel.

As it turns out, it wasn’t quite like that. Which was a shame really. Although there were plenty of beards and even the odd Paisley shirt. Yes, this was the smackdown of the year. Cask v Keg at the beer festival that they insisted on calling a convention.

IndyManBeerCon promised convocation of the beer cognoscenti (that’s people yakking about beer to you and me), quality food and beer served in third glasses-but more of that later. So how was it for this punter and beer festival veteran?

Well the venue was an inspired choice. The Victoria Baths on Hathersage Road is a splendid Edwardian institution that is currently undergoing restoration. The interior is full of little nooks and crannies and some interesting tilework and window decoration.

The beer was split into separate bars for keg and cask and each was hosted in one of the swimming pools. Seating was only in the cask bar, which drew some complaints and I’m not sure how disabled accessible the keg bar actually was; although the building did have accessible toilets.

But what about the beer, I hear you ask? The cask bar had a nice set of handpumps furnishing the bar and the craft-but-keg bar, erm, didn’t. Actually the cask bar had a few clangers on it. Take away the well tried and tested Magic Rock and Marble, and there were a few less than stellar performer here.

The keg bar, on the other hand, was full of heavy hitters such as Camden and Kernel. So a win for keg on quality and choice, undoubtedly. Luck of the draw, I guess, although conspiracy corner was busy with mutterings.

The two most common complaints I heard were about pricing and the glasses. Now we knew it was going to be pricey and so it proved, but something labelled “craft” is, allegedly, supposed to be pricey, so I felt you could roll with that punch.

However, the glasses situation was less tolerable. Only serving in third glasses was nothing short of silly and pretentious. The reason given: that it was to encourage sampling was nonsense. It wasn’t even as if all the beers were strong. And as you could get tasters anyway, there was even less reason for them. That’s why glasses with third lines on them were invented.

The choice for the seasoned drinker, once he had settled on his favourite, to have more than a third should have at least been offered. After all, beer is best enjoyed as a social drink whilst engaged in serious intellectual (or not) conversation. It is not meant for having to piss about and get your glass replenished every eight minutes or so.

Glass debacle aside, the festival convention was much like any other. That is, an enjoyable way to meet old and new friends with an interest in man’s greatest invention: beer. This one had the added bonus of getting to meet some of the faces behind the brews. That is if that’s your thing. Let’s face it; some of those brewers can bore the arse off a donkey. Only joking, lads.

Overall, then, an enjoyable first event that, with a few tweaks, could establish itself on the beer calendar. Whether it had any greater significance, well, I’ll let others be the judge of that.


Neville Grundy said…
I think I'd find having to drink thirds intensely irritating. That alone is enough to put me off.
Danyl Matherson said…
Those so called glasses were damn irritating. It was treating responsible drinkers like children.
Ron Pattinson said…
Third of a pint only? Sure sign of an effing geek fest. Another festival where you need to take your own glass.
Aiden said…
Third od a pint only? Fucking outrageous
PS3Guy said…
It was a bit of a strange setup but I enjoyed it. have to agree that the keg was better than the cask but it was a bit too cold for my liking.
Anonymous said…
If you dont get it then its not aimed at you, proberbly best get back to warm beer at Camra
PS3Guy said…
I see I'm not allowed an opinion then? Maybe it is time for me to join Camra?
Tyson said…

I don't think they would have let you use your own glass. I didn't see or hear any tankards jangling from belts:)
Cooking Lager said…
All that and the opportunity to hear Tanders in a craft beer debate. The dream ticket.
Anonymous said…
Yeah I saw that fat wanker was on Fri evening so I bought a ticket for Sat!!!
Tandleman said…
Well Anon. Just identify yourself and say it to my face.

Anonymous said…
Thought it was a refreshing change from the majority of beer festivals , coupled with a great venue hope it goes from strength to strength. i agree with the PS3 that it was a little on the cold side.
Also i thought the keg beers were overpriced working out at £6-£9 a pint. It would've been good if just one of the brewers had the same ale on keg and cask - so some of could taste what all the fuss is about.But overall the above critism's didn't detract from a well organised event.
Dimpled Mug said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry said…
I found it to be a real mixed bag and agree with some of the above comments.

First the good bits. It was a cracking venue and the tastings, meet the brewer etc were a nice touch. And I enjoyed the food and meeting new friends.

On the down side. It was very expensive and I actually saw some people walk out when they saw how much some beers were. The keg bar was excellent, but the cask bar seemed to be have been put together with not much thought. Where were the Milds and other styles? Where were the best cask brewers?

I also would have liked to see cask and keg side by side. And larger glasses:)
Sue said…
For those of you with access to Facebook, Independent Manchester Beer Convention have a page - I'm sure they'd welcome any constructive comments so that they can make the next event even better - I've already made mine, although I forgot to mention the keg being too cold. On the Saturday we did get Summer Wine Diablo in both cask and keg - and I preferred the keg.
Anonymous said…
It's no use moaning. keg is cold. Get over it.
Dimpled Mug said…
anon .. i was saying the venue temperature was cold on the friday afternoon session.
claire said…
Well i thought it was fantastic!!!
Anonymous said…
Why was Brewdog in a separate room?
Anonymous said…
Because thay are "special"
Filrd said…
Lets not forget that quite a few of these beers were big hitters on Abv, who wants a pint of 11.5% beer not many folks I reckon.

There were a few beers that were available on cask and keg, Diablo as mentioned and the Quantum Blood Orange Pale too, there may have been more. All things considered it was a good Fest IMHO

Yvan Seth said…
There's a lot of hate here in the comments... I hope some of it, at least, is sarcastic... "warm beer", "effing geek", "fat wanker"... wow people, what's your problem? It's beer, get over it, drop the stupid religious battles and take that lump of ginger out of your sphincter.

It never occurred to me to be concerned about only having third measures - on the contrary, I was pleased to discover this! Is there a weird full-pint-ism thing deeply embedded in the English psyche? Why does not giving you the option of a pint instantly get interpreted as nannying and being treated like children? Doesn't add up that way to me. If you want a pint, then just have 3 thirds in a row. Logistically, from the PoV of organising a festival, it seems to make a lot of sense actually. Plus I love stemmed glasses for beer myself.

I agree, pricing was high for some beers. I guess I just expected that though. Plus I'm willing to pay higher prices for the opportunity given: so many interesting, unique, and hard-to-find beers in one place on draught! Stunning! Milds are worth an article in themselves... I thought the cask selection was good. Keeping in mind that this is a commercial venture that needs to sell beer I didn't expect the same variety on cask as I'd find at a CAMRA festival (where there is more of a campaign emphasis on raising awareness for some particular styles)... but there could have been one or two good milds on. That aide, I think bitters, best bitters, stouts, etc were well enough covered. As for "best" of UK cask brewers... in my opinion many of them WERE there. It is of course a matter of opinion... who are the best UK cask brewers? I expect many different answers to that question! (I prefer Diablo cask personally.)

Well - people know what to expect now. If they don't like things this way, they can avoid the event next time. For me, personally, it was as if the whole event was designed as per my own specifications.

Anyway, when are we switching to metric here? Surely it's about time. I, for one, will welcome 200ml beer measures! :)

Man, I do waffle on... I only had one point to make originally, but I forgot what it was.
Anonymous said…
I thought it covered as broad a church of decent beer as you could hope for, events included. pricing was reasonable given the products presented. yvan seth is right. tandleman is not a wanker. ron pattinson drinks out of smaller glasses at boerefts. beer is something that's meant to be enjoyed
Phil said…
something labelled “craft” is, allegedly, supposed to be pricey

I've got to say it. "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

Glad I didn't bother - I did think the cask list looked less than exciting, & that some of the beers listed would really work best over the course of a pint or two. £6 a pint for keg, though - give over.
Tyson said…

Oh dear. How quickly the oppressed become the oppressors. It wasn’t so long ago that people were complaining that you couldn’t get thirds at beer festivals. I support the principle of offering third measures, but you seem unwilling to allow me the same courtesy. It’s very easy to accommodate all drinkers. Or is craft beer so cool now it can afford to alienate the mainstream drinker?
Yvan Seth said…
I don't think it is "oppressive" - it's like keg-only BrewDog bars: it's your choice whether to go or not.

I think the British are far too hung-up on this whole "pint" thing anyway - taking people away from their "pints" is a good thing. It's a change in the nature & consideration of beer. It is a lot like wine snobbery, and as such "craft beer snobbery" is almost certainly alienating to the "mainstream drinker". "Craft beer" is a niche premium product, here and in probably all other countries - in the US "craft beer" is only around 5% of the total beer market I think. The "mainstream drinker" is going to be alienated way before they worry about not being able to quaff a pint of beer - by the door charge first, & then by price of a "pint". In the unlikely case that they do make it this far they may be additionally alienated when they try said "craft beer" and find it actually tastes like something. Measure is the least of our worries.

Anyway - I doubt anybody would have stopped you bringing your own lined festival pint glass. You'd probably be served using it too, though failing that you could always empty 3 thirds into it. Try it next time?
Tyson said…

Brewdog are so last year that the organisers were probably embarrassed to have them there. Does anyone still drink their beers?


I think we will have to agree to disagree, but it's not just some British hang up about pints. I've just come back from Oregon and there were several places there that served only pints.
Neville Grundy said…
Yvan, what's your problem? It's a pint, get over it, drop the stupid religious battles.

So preferring a pint is a "thing deeply embedded in the English psyche", is it? You read it here, folks: Yvan says if you prefer pints, that's not a personal choice but something wrong with your psyche.

How arrogant.
An Anonymous Boozer said…
I really don't think it's controversial to say that the pint is an integral part of British pub - and beer drinker - psyche. The fact that everybody, on every blog I've read, has been discussing the cost of beer PER PINT at IMBC just highlights this predilection to the pint of beer. The relative expense of beer, ANY beer, in the UK is pretty much always discussed in terms of how much it costs per pint.

Which is all fine, but it makes little sense to complain about keg beer being expensive at £9 a pint, when said pint is a 14% barrel-aged barley wine. Is £3 for a third of 14% barley wine really more expensive than £3 for a pint of 4% bitter? They are completely different drinking experiences, and discussing both in terms of cost per pint is misleading.

Of course I'm not saying craft keg isn't ever like-for-like more expensive than cask beer, but I think it's easy to exaggerate the differences when you don't take into account that craft keg beers are usually very different beers to those served on cask.

Having said that, only being able to get thirds, with no other option, would annoy me...
Yvan Seth said…
Yes, I think there is a deeply embedded "pintism" in the drinking culture here. I think it shows for the worse sometimes. It also strikes me as a very odd thing to complain about - but I don't come from a culture where people care so much about this (as far as I recall), thus my bringing of cultural psyche into the blend of the discussion. Partly my viewpoint on pints grows from a context in CAMRA where there is sometimes deep resentment & resistance to any suggestion that the "pint" isn't necessary. Just look at the deeply emotional responses above "treating responsible drinkers like children" - "effing geek fest" - "Fucking outrageous"... wha? It's just a glass size!

I don't believe I'm being religious about this though - however I am battling the point (now, originally it was just a general note amongst others that then elicited some strong responses.)

I don't really like pint glasses - probably obvious enough! I find CAMRA festivals with nothing but the old clunky print-compatible straight-sided pint glasses slightly depressing. Beer in some unwieldy and heavy lump of low quality glass - no respect for the beer. Some offer good half-pint glasses, but this is far from universal. Anyway, the half-pint glasses are usually clunky straight-sided affairs more designed for quaffing of ale than sensory enjoyment of beer.

We are all entitled to our opinions in this case - it's just beer after all! If I was serving you chaps at the festival and you handed me a pint glass I'd gladly serve you your pint - no religious wars would ensure, I swear!

Maybe IndyMan will do pints next time, if there is so much feeling against the absence of them. I do hope not... sorry about that! I this sort of thing is an important step forward for the appreciation of beer... meanwhile 100s of CAMRA festivals will continue to go on around the country, fully pint-ed up, and I DON'T think this ought to change. (With the exception that I think they should all offer thirds too, and in a lined half-pint glass that doesn't suck.)

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