Friday, 14 October 2016

Indy Man 16 - Report Card

(The view from our table @ Indy Man this year)

2015 was the first time I attended the Independent Manchester Beer Convention (Indy Man), and I absolutely loved it, easily my favourite festival last year. However, being as I had been blogging for only a few months I decided against commenting and contented myself with reading some excellent posts from other well established bloggers.
Fast forward a year and it is nearly a week since I once again attended the Saturday afternoon session of Indy Man, again travelling with my beardy beer buddy, Clayton and my lovely girlfriend Michelle who was popping her Indy Man cherry. Once again, we were blessed with glorious weather up North, which makes queuing up a much pleasant endeavour.

(Clayton and I appear to be sporting the same tops as last year)

This year, not only have I decided to type up a few words, Steve (@BeerOClockShow) and I have shared our views via our weekly podcast, Hopinions:

Here's what I loved this year:
1. The Venue! Simply put, it is a stunning place, inside and out. Any event being held here will be enhanced just by making this choice. ( I believe there is a trust that would love to raise enough money to one day return the Victoria Baths to it's former glory. Wonderful, hold on though, where would Indy Man go? Now, I am torn.....
2. Logistics. So many times, organisers behind events (not just beer festivals) forget the simple things and the huge benefits of marginal gains, the folks at Indy Man did not. Well done. Queue management - with 15 mins to go, volunteers started making their way through the masses of eager beer people to check tickets and provide a wrist band, this helped to clear a bottleneck when entering the building. But, they didn't stop there, they were also selling beer tokens that could be purchased by cash or card. Seemingly so simple, but, made a huge difference in my opinion, which meant that all you had to do was pick up your glass and off you go to go your 1st beer. Last, but, not least, the Wild Beer Marquee opened up a whole new space, Saturday afternoon did not seem so busy as last year.
3. Tokens - Easy to remember system. 1 token = 1/3 beer.

(Spending time with this crowd only enhanced the whole Indy Man experience - thanks guys & gals)

4. The people. Unbelievable, people who tweet, blog and podcast are not only real, but, on the whole a pretty nice bunch too, who knew? Whether it be people I have met before (see above) or putting faces to names (Twitter handles) I always love this bit - a complete joy. You lot are wonderful, BIG hello to you all. Also, a shoutout to the volunteers, without whom I assume it would be a bit more of a struggle to run this event (and others like it).
5. The Beer! 5th on the list, what is the matter with me?!?!? I reckon if the beer choice was poor, I would have found a way to mention it sooner, but, I think this says a lot about Indy Man, that the quality of the breweries invited and the beers presented has not been mentioned yet. let me just say, I did not have a bad beer or a bad beery experience. I went DIPA heavy early on (all part of the plan, honestly!), special mention to Northern Monk Double Heathen AND the Throne of Cans!
Question: What happened to the cans everyone sat on???
(King of the Beers!!)

Could do better:
1. Tokens/Pricing - Simple? Yes. The right way? Not for me. I would have preferred a bit more flexibility, or, even a cash element. However, from an admin point of view, spot on. Also, pricing structure should have been announced at the same time as ticket prices.
2. The Glass - I loved last year's Craft Master One sponsored by Cloudwater, with 1/3, 1/2 and 2/3 markings, bloody wonderful. I could have small measures and I could have sociable measures, you know, the ones where you can chat away not worried that the liquid has evaporated before your very eyes. Also, very fragile, hoping to look after mine and put it on eBay in a couple of weeks, should be worth a few pennies!
(Not the brightest idea, but, I got away with it!!)

3. Food prices - Seemed expensive to me. I am judging the quality or the quantity here, purely how I perceived the price points to be, and, for me it was a bit much.
4. Water stations - where were they? Bit ironic that I was in an old swimming baths, but, water was one of the hardest commodities to come by. I understand you could buy a bottle and get it topped up, but, why not just have water stations? CAMRA would at least have been pleased to see their example followed on this.

Overall though, I had a fantastic time and the same goes for those that I travelled with. The "could do better" was easily outweighed by what "I loved". This festival still remains high up on the list and rightly so. If you haven't yet been, you should make every effort to attend in 2017 - see you there.

(Until next year fish mosaic)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

More to Berlin than Stone!

Bloody British summer, mid September and it's peeing it down at London Stansted on a Friday morning as we are due to take off to go to Berlin for my brother's stag weekend. Fortunately when we arrived in Berlin we were greeted by clear blue sky and warm sunshine but better than that an Oktoberfest bar is waiting for us 10 metres outside arrivals what where we to do? Only one thing you could do in that situation, have some beer. So, Brian (my other brother) myself and one of our mates sat ourselves down for the next 3 hours before deciding that we really should make an attempt to get into Berlin! Upon arrival at Tempelhof in Berlin we met up with my brother Paul who's stag weekend it was, and guess what? He was in an Oktoberfest bar outside the station (great minds think alike).

The main plan for the Friday evening was going to watch a local Berlin football team play in what used to be East Berlin. By early evening there was a small group of us to go and watch the football. Upon arrival at the venue, we spied a Veltins pop up bar selling beer for around €2.50 for 1/2 litre. This is not my favourite pils, but at €2.50 outside a football ground, I can learn to love it a little bit more! Even more astonishing to an English football fan was the fact that once we got in the ground the beer was not only the same price, but I could buy, drink and watch the game all at the same time (incidentally, cost of my ticket for the football - €15).

After the match we went to an Irish bar to watch the conclusion of the Chelsea vs Liverpool match (a good result for my team as we beat The Blues 2-1) many more pils were consumed, although none of any note, plus a disgusting Irish red ale which I am pretty sure I didn't finish. On the Saturday we went to Stone Brewery, and if you want to read more about that click feel free to click on the link:

After the rain of Saturday, I awoke to find Berlin was basking in glorious sunshine, clear blue sky, therefore, not wanting to waste the lovely weather I abandoned my room mates and walked the 5/6 kms to Alexanderplatz , taking in some lovely scenery and history.

For those of you that haven't been to Berlin, Alexanderplatz is where the tower and the world clock are, also, features in the second Bourne film as Jason once again outwits his previous employers! However, I was in the area to outwit no one, I was there to visit another craft bar (thanks to Nate @NateDawg27 for the recommendation). Allow me to present to you - Lemke Berlin

So, it would appear that setting up under a railway arch is not just something we do here in the UK, those Europeans types do it also! And, what a lovely space it is, very warm and welcoming the moment you step in the place. Immediately you can see that they take beer seriously, but, the way the bar is set up you can just sit down, ignore all that craft beer stuff and order a beer and food. It is simply somewhere you can relax, have a beer, or all the beers (just for the record, I did the latter) and chill, while contemplating the upcoming match between Hertha Berlin v Shalke.
The tasting selection consisted of Bohemian Pilsner, 030 Pale Ale, Lemke Original, Weizen, Hopfen Weisse & India Pale Ale, with the standout being the India Pale Ale. I can also vouch for the food in this place too, tasty and reasonably priced. I followed up the tasters with a 1/3 of each of the Imperial IPA and Imperial Stout, again, the IPA was the standout. Lastly, as it was Oktoberfest season I also sampled the Festbier, a good example of the style. Finally, my room mates had arrived, enough time for another beer before heading to the Olympic Stadium for the football.
And, what a stadium it is - awesome springs to mind but doesn't seem to quite cover it in all honesty. Once again, beer in and around the stadium is positively encouraged, All of the food joints sell beer, it really is a revelation once again to someone schooled in the English game which effectively says I can have one but not the other. This is the same stadium made infamous in 1936 by Jesse Owens winning 4 Gold medals which rather upset the Fuhrer, or, so we are lead to believe! (Hertha Berlin won the match by the way). Berlin is a City that should be visited for so many reasons, and, i hope over the course of two Blogs i have given you a sense of the place (even if it was mostly about beer and football, sorry...). Whether it be the football, the beer, the pubs/bars, the culture, the history, there is a lot to love about Berlin.