Indyman Beercon 2019

The blog is back! I’ve been away for a long time because sometimes, life just gets in the way, and these kinds of hobbies are sadly usually the first thing to drop. But following a conversation with my friend Sarah (fellow UK Brewery Tours guide) at last week’s Indyman Beercon in Manchester, I am going to start making much more of an effort to keep up with my writing! So what better to talk about for my first blog back than Indyman itself?

After attending only one session last year and loving it, I knew that this year I wanted to get more immersed in the Indyman experience. When the tickets were released, we bought some for the Friday evening session and Saturday day session (which we planned to use as an excuse to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday with friends). I also applied for trade tickets for the Friday day session due to my involvement with UK Brewery Tours, which I wasn’t expecting to get but I did (wahey!). In a mad moment closer to the festival, I also decided to volunteer for the Sunday session (more on that later).

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Rob (my boyfriend) in the Deya room on Friday

My boyfriend and I booked half days on the Friday of Indyman and managed to get across to Victoria Baths for about 1.00pm. After a year away, it felt great to be back in the stunning and maze-like venue with its high ceilings and hidden rooms. With so many rooms to explore and breweries in attendance, it was hard to know where to start. As I had enjoyed their beer so much at last year’s Indyman, I headed straight over to Other Half where I had their ‘Double mmm…fruit’ – a watermelon and lime sour berliner weisse – one of the many sours I sampled at this year’s Indyman and one of the most unique and memorable. On Sarah’s suggestion, I opted for North’s Golden Milk next – another sour beer but this time made with turmeric. Again, this was unlike any other sour beer I’d had before and I’d be keen to try this one again, as I’m not sure I was able to fully pick out the flavours after having the watermelon sour directly beforehand. This year’s Indyman was packed full of sour beers which was a great thing for me as I am a big fan. Later on in the day I also had The Kernal’s Biere de Saison which I’m pretty sure I’d had before, but admittedly it’s hard for me to see a saison from The Kernal and not order it straight away. Friday was most certainly my ‘sours day’ and I finished off the night with a Kriek from Portland Oregon’s Cascade Brewing which was the perfect end to an evening of great beer, spent with even greater people.

Saturday we were back bright and early for the day session. Most of the first half hour was spent trying to round up our friends, as we’d bought lots of tickets for this session to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday. Once everyone had arrived, tokens at the ready, we began to explore again, and I was determined to branch out and try something a little bit more outside my comfort zone. That opportunity came, when I spotted a black lager by Creature Comforts called ‘The Solent World’. I am partial to a lager from time to time – I had a fantastic pilsner recently by PFriem which was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever tasted – it sounds weird to describe a lager as ‘buttery’ but this one seriously was. But a black lager? I’d never had anything like that before and I wasn’t disappointed. It was probably the most drinkable and interesting beer I had all festival. After a short pause to buy a jumper from Pomona Island that I couldn’t resist, I was back to the sours again with an elderberry and redcurrent saison from Runaway Brewery. I’ve talked about how much I like Runaway before on this blog and I think their saisons are hard to beat. We don’t get as much chance to visit their taproom now we live outside the city centre, but I’m determined to make a stop there again soon. The last beer I noted down (before all my efforts to keep track went out of the window) was Donzoko’s Genever Red (8.2%!). I love a flanders red ale, possibly one of my favourite styles, so I’m not too unhappy to have stopped my recording there (N.B. more beers were definitely consumed).

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Having a great time with my fellow UK Brewery Tours guides (L-R, Simon, Sarah, Debbie and me)

I woke up surprisingly fresh on Sunday and raring to go for my volunteering session. The Sunday at Indyman is known for being the ‘chilled out’ session, so although I was feeling pretty good, I headed over to Victoria Baths hoping that would be the case. Kat and Becca, two of the organisers, did a really good job of trying to make sure we had a good time and aimed to place us with breweries that we liked. I was pleased to be assigned to the Deya room for the day to help out on the bar and it was nice to know that they had tried their best to match us to breweries we had said that we liked on our application forms (obviously not always possible, but it was a nice touch). The two brewers I was working alongside on the Deya bar were completely exhausted, but helpful and showed me the ropes. I’ve never served on a bar before and it made me realise how tiring it is. I’ve always had respect for bar staff; however it’s given me a new found appreciation for what they do. We only had 6 beers on the Deya bar on Sunday and I was only on my feet for 4.5 hours in total, but it was still really hard work. Imagine having to remember where everything is in a fully stocked bar of beers, wines, spirits and other beverages? Overall it was a great experience and I’d definitely be keen to volunteer again. It felt good to be serving people while they are having a great time and it was really nice to bump into a few people that I know too.

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Rob in one of the stalls on Saturday

After taking part in the clean-up operation once the session ended at 6.00pm, I went home with tired feet but a happy feeling of being part of something really amazing. It may be the end of Indyman for another year, however I have plenty of “beery” events coming up – loads more festivals, tours and blog ideas.

 

 

Zwanze Day 2018 at The Pilcrow, Manchester

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Zwanze Day at The Pilcrow Poster

Sticking with the Belgian theme for just one more blog post, I am going to write about Cantillon Zwanze Day which took place at my local Manchester pub, The Pilcrow, on Saturday 29 September. The Zwanze series from Cantillon Brewery (Brussels, Belgium) began in 2008 with the release of a special lambic beer with added rhubarb. Ever since then, Cantillon brewer Jean Van Roy has used the series, and the celebration days organised around it, to bring lovers of lambic beers together around the world. Now ten years in to the series, this was my first ever Zwanze day and seeing as it was at our local and favourite Manchester pub, we couldn’t resist getting tickets.

 

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Garage, Silver Peel

The event began at 12.00pm on the Saturday, however as we had friends visiting that day we didn’t arrive at The Pilcrow until around 6.00pm. The Zwanze was not pouring until 8.00pm, so this gave us plenty of time to try out the rest of the lambic-inspired beers on offer that day. The Pilcrow still has it’s large yellow tent up outside the pub, which has been used for many events during the summer months, and the majority of the beers were being served from inside the tent. You needed to buy tokens from the bar if you wanted beers from outside (£2.50 per token), so we got a few each to begin with. Cantillon beers were two tokens each (I imagine because of the costs to bring the beer to the UK) but all the other beers were one token. I started off with the Cantillon Iris, a traditional lambic which is dry and tart, with a slight floral taste. It was delicious and I was pleased that I had the chance to try it as it had not been available when we visited the brewery itself back in July. I followed this with a Oude Kriek Boon, as I love the Kriek style so always take the opportunity to have one when I can.

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Wylam, Fruits of Perception

As well as a large selection of Cantillon brews, there were also lots of sour and lambic-inspired beers from a range of UK brewers. The Wild Beer Co had plenty on offer, many of which were very intriguing such as their Rosa Rouge Saison which was really well balanced and had a nice level of tartness to it. We also tried their Sourdough Berliner Weisse which we were pleasantly surprised by, as although we were keen to try it, we weren’t convinced it would work. It was actually quite light and refreshing. We were expecting it to have a stronger bread taste, but the fact it didn’t is probably a good thing. Personal favourites from the non-Cantillon beers we tried were Silver Peel, a sour Berliner Weisse from Garage Beer Co from Barcelona (really light, fragrant but very sour. Definitely packs a punch!) and Fruits of Perception by Wylam from Newcastle, UK which I found to be quite unique compared to other sours I’ve had (I also couldn’t quite place the fruit, but possibly apricot – very nice). I know that sour beers are not for everyone, but for sour lovers like me, this event was a brilliant opportunity to try lots of interesting and harder-to-come-by styles.

IMG_3075As it approached 8.00pm, we joined the queue to receive our Cantillon Zwanze 2018. While we waited we had a good chat with a few lambic-enthusiasts who had only just returned from visiting the brewery in Brussels. They also told us about how you can only purchase a certain amount of bottles of Cantillon beer from the brewery every year (something we didn’t know) and apparently they have a way of tracking past purchases on your card so they know if you’ve already reached your limit for that year. We also saw two men with two wristbands each (you had to exchange your tickets for a wristband when you arrived). They must have been very keen to try this years Zwanze!

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Zwanze 2018 lambic and glass

Once we received our Zwanze, it was worth the wait. This years version was a blend of two year old lambic matured in first use italian wine barrels. It was really tart and so flavourful. You could definitely taste the wine and the time it spent maturing in the barrels. We received a third measure and sadly we got through ours way too quickly – we definitely could have had more if we’d had the chance to. There is definitely a level of excitement to having a beer you know you will never have again though. As much as I value having my ‘go-to’ beers that I’ll come back to time and time again, it’s a special experience to have something that has taken so much time and effort and you will never have again. And I guess there’s always next year?

I had never heard of Zwanze day before this year and I’m glad that The Pilcrow got the chance to host it, as it’s a really fantastic little pub. Over the next few weeks/months I’ll be writing about loads more local events – the next one being Indyman Beer Con 2018, which I’ll be attending tonight. Perhaps see you there?