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.