I’m not normally a fan of beer festivals, as for me it’s the pub experience that counts. I don’t drink at home either. Our local festival in Cambridge has plenty of good beer but you have to drink it standing up or sitting on grass. IndyManBeerCon last year was a revelation with it’s gorgeous building, seating and good music.
It was partly the promise of seating that drew me to Manchester’s Fest yesterday (and will to Stockport in June), as well as the chance to taste a few of the city’s new beers on cask in their best condition.
Manchester Central is a superb venue, not quite Victoria Baths but still an architectural delight. The Festival was as well organised as you’d expect from the CAMRA branches concerned, and beer quality would have been NBSS 4 if I was rating it in a pub. Plenty of pints were £3, which is nearly a quid cheaper than in an increasing number of local pubs.
Any beer served in a Robinsons (sponsored) pint glass is going to taste good, and drinking in thirds didn’t diminish the flavour, even of the relatively weaker beers. I guess a much higher proportion of beers were well above 5% than I’d have seen at a Fest 10 years ago. Atom’s Dark Matter was my star beer, but then I find Atom hardly put a foot wrong.
Apart from a chat with Erlanger Nick about Thanet, the highlight of my visit was the tutored IPA tasting with John Clarke, Chairman of Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA. John gave a good-sized group of us an entertaining history of IPA, punctuated at 10 minute intervals by samples from a well-chosen selection of beers, including some very unusual ones.
John kept the tasting notes very simple, and I was able to concentrate on proving that decanting beer from bottle to pint glasses is The True Way. The Brass Castle and Brewsmith IPAs carried in jugs from the festival were highlights.
I was, of course, hugely disappointed not to get a sample of the 2004 CAMRA Champion Bitter, particularly as Doom Bar’s relentless rise threatens the pre-eminence of that Suffolk treasure.
No Punk IPA either, though there were some rumours from the West Country of a return to cask for BrewDog, which would be a GOOD THING if it were true. The Porter I had on handpump in Brescia a year ago is my Desert Island pint.
My thanks to all the volunteers involved in putting this Festival on.