Let's cut to the chase: The Independent Manchester Beer Convention has the potential to be the most exciting beer event that I've ever attended in the UK.

Many beer lovers have only dreamed of a get-together when the UK's best cask and keg beers are served by their brewers. Alongside award-winning food. With pop-up tastings, talks, seminars, live music. In a decent venue. Run by industry professionals.

Dream no more.

Indymanbeercon runs on Friday 5th and Saturday 6th of October at Victoria Baths, Manchester. If you have a beer pulse, you can't help but be turned on by the idea of:

- keg beers from Brewdog, Thornbridge, Brodies, Tempest, Magic Rock, Summer Wine, Hardknott, Lovibonds, The Kernel, Ilkley and Camden Town.

 - cask beers from thirty brewers including Buxton, Dark Star, Gadds, Hawkshead, Mallinsons, Marble, Red Willow and Steel City. And Sierra Nevada. And Cantillion.

- food by Sindhoor, Great North Pie Company and Dirty Dogs along with a special tasting dinner hosted by award-winning restaurant Aumbrey

- quality coffee by North Tea Power

I'm so excited, I wanted to be part of it. So I'm working a shift on the Friday and then looking forward to drinking some of the countries best beers with many of the countries best brewers and beery people afterwards.

Want to be part of it too? Buy tickets here and volunteer here.

See you there.


The Magic Mitch and Bernie Show

"... I only had four pints," pleads Bernie.

Magic Mitch insists otherwise. "No, we both had at least two pints in here," he said, gesturing around what had been a quiet bar at Derby's Brunswick Inn.

"And then we had two halves next door..." interjects Bernie. Meaning the Alexandra, thirty steps around the corner.

"It was four halves", emphasises Mitch. "And you forgot the bloke who bought us both a pint. And that we went up to the Exeter Arms for a few. And then came back here for another pint".

Last week's shenanigans play as a major topic of conversation all lunchtime. As does clubbing; semi-pro dancers, missing last buses. Potential partners. Mitch has seen it all before.

"Big ladies aren't your thing, are they, Bernie?" There's a pain behind Bernie's eyes. "They tread on your feet", Bernie says. "And they're no good on top".

There's a round of Ossett Hopmonster. It gains praise for being, in Mitch's words, "super-dry. It attacks the back of the throat".

He then disappears for half a ciggy and to bung a few quid in the gaming machine. After a few minutes, there's a vague chinking sound. Bernie cheers. "Have you won enough to buy a round!"

"You'd be lucky," answers Mitch. "So would I, actually..."

Bernie confides that Mitch, when knowing he's about the hit the jackpot, has been known to stuff his scarf into the payout slot of the machine. Deadening the sound of pound coins hitting the trough. So not raising the ire of the landlord.

We sojourn next door. Castle Rock Harvest Pale is dispatched quickly. As is their Elsie Mo. It's... smooth. Subtle. They're compliments, by the way.

No-one heard Bernie order something to eat. He soon wraps his chops into a ham and tomato cob. Three chomps in, Mitch orders one. Other people eating makes other topers irresistibly hungry.

Maybe it's the wheeler-dealer car-seller in him, but Mitch really loves a bargain. He's found plenty recently. Packs of chicken breasts for 30p. Mobile phone deals where, through an arcane combination of discount websites and cashback deals, he's being paid to have a contract. He's on the phone now, surfing the web, scouring for bargains. We politely decline offers of killer mobile deals. Bernie is happy with his prehistoric Nokia. It bounces.

But Bernie doesn't. He's still sporting an oil-blue bruise that runs the length of his left arm, apart from where plasters cover the cuts sustained from his latest trip. Over the kerb just around the corner, running for a bus last week after what may have been more than four pints. Mitch was already at the stop. Albeit the bus wasn't actually the one they wanted.

I'll never tire of meeting Mitch, who's a not-too-shoddy magician in his spare time, and asking him, "how's tricks!"

Bernie has tales that can turn your hair almost as white as his. He's 83 this year. Mitch... well let's say he's old enough to know better.

They're taking me to Sheffield soon. With their mates. People who've been retired for longer than I've been working. People who've been drinking for longer than they care to remember.

The 'Magic Mitch and Bernie' show lights up every pub they drink in. I'm just hoping we don't end up laughing our way to A&E...


A Derbyshire twiss-up-bimble-thing

Saturday 8h September. You're all invited.

Rough plan:

- Meet in a Derby Spoons for breakfast. The Standing Order. Or Thomas Leaper. Whichever has fewer piss-stinking tramps in it.

- 1135 bus to Ripley for Talbot Taphouse (Amber Ales brewery tap). This is the only definite timing point of the day. We make the rest up depending on how we want to pace things.

- bus onto Thorn Tree at Waingroves (rare cask with the distinct possibility of Steel City & Buxton beers)

*edit* there will be a beerfest on here, organised by Derby CAMRA's Winter Beerfest 2012 uber-beer-buyer Chris Sherratt. Game on!

- bus to Langley for the Butchers Arms (no idea what it's like but the bus that stops outside the Thorn Tree also stops outside here)

- short walk to Queen's Head, Marlpool (usually a good run of contemporary English cask beers)

- bus from outside there to General Havelock, Ilkeston (more of the same - it's the Queen's sister pub - with the addition of craft keg. Probably from Summer Wine).

- back into Derby (for chips, banter, aimless wandering etc).

Most of the pubs have a bus stop outside them. An individual all-day ticket costs £5; a group ticket (five people) only costs £12 so it's cheap at chips to get around.

I can't guarantee another round of Top Trumps as good as the one we had in the Poet & Castle last time out, but I'll promise not to put every one on the wrong bus again. Probably.

Let me know below if you're interested.


The Oregon Public House

A not-for-profit pub. Built by volunteers. With a ballroom that local groups can use. Where you can choose which local charity your bar tab gets donated to. In Portland.

Something that could happen only in Oregon? Because Portland has the perfect storm of cutting-edge brewers and so many non-profit organisations? Or could it happen in the UK?

I'm excited by this. Even though I'm wholly unlikely to make it over there any time soon. It's a model that looks exciting and sustainable. Albeit it challenging to all kinds of economic and social mores.

The Oregon Public House. See their website, their Facebook page, their PDF prospectus, their video.

If you make it over their for a pint, let me know.


Proud sponsors of... Tantallon Victoria FC

I work in the commercial department of a Championship football club. I recognise the brand exposure that a keen sponsorship deal can bring.

All well and good, except for two things. As far as this site is concerned:

- I can't really afford a sponsorship deal, and
- I don't want brand exposure

But this offer was too good to resist.

Trolling my way across Twitter (for purely professional purposes, natch) I noticed this:

I'd made that much out of my Amazon Associates account, mostly by drunks clicking through on the book reviews and subsequently purchasing expensive shampoo and, um, gentleman's literature.

Heineken had the Olympics. To unleash John Smith's Smooth on the unfearing masses.

The Beer Bloggers Conference no longer have Molson Coors. Maybe MC woke up and smelt the re-tweets.

But I now sponsor Tantallon Victoria FC. Strathclyde Saturday Morning Football League. Division Two. Here they are:

Strictly speaking, I sponsor Thomas "Tank" Jaimieson, fourth from the left on the back row. Here he is.

I chose him because I asked to sponsor the player most likely to take the twenty quid and spend it on beer.

None of the team seem shy to celebrate / commiserate with a beer. Tales of a pink team bus, losing their kit and 7-1 trouncings run riot across their Twitter account.

Needless to say, my sponsorship will inevitably involve a trip up north at some stage. I wonder if sponsors are encouraged to bring beer with them...


How to bimble for beer

How to Bimble For Beer: A Toper's Guide.

You will need:

- city with great pubs offering range of beer styles on a range of dispense, ideally situated no more than five minutes from one and other. Sheffield is an ideal choice.

- transport, public

- shoes, walking (stout)

- strangers, occasional (bitter)

- sense of direction, calibrated roughly

- constitution: solid. Cast iron preferred

Optional extras:

- newspaper; crossword for early doors, restaurant review to laugh at later, financial pages that double as emergency toilet roll if required

- smartphone

- pork pie

- Orval

- bunch of Scotsmen

- more pork pie


1) Find a pub / bar close to your chosen public transport option upon arrival in the city. Order pint of something to be drank slowly whilst cogitating. Attempt crossword. Read half the newspaper.

(If you plump for the bunch-of-Scotsmen option, add them now).

2) Move to next pub depending on

- likelihood of favourable beer there (smartphone may influence choice)

- likelihood of good pork pie (brown meat, thin crust, short on jelly are all preferable)

- likelihood of Orval (as the ever-redoubtable backstop)

- bitterness of locals when you're sat in their seat, ogling their wife/girlfriend/mother, using words with two or more syllables

- attention-span of Scotsmen (whale-tails and obvious cleavage will buy time for at least one more round)

- degree of sunburn attained in beer garden. If you're blonde, amplify this factor by two. If you're ginger, amplify this factor by four. If you're either/or of these factors and a Scotsman, amplify this factor by eleventy and wrap yourself in gauze before attempting to visit a beer garden again.

3) Repeat for a half-a-dozen pubs or so. Ish. Sort of.

4) Return to public transport. If you're feeling fairly louche at this stage, buy sushi and Orval for the train ride home. If you're feeling fairly funky at this stage, buy an egg mayonnaise sarnie and a four-pack of Belgian Lager from M&S Simply Foods for the train ride home.

5) Share the sushi and Orval with an attractive, witty student and regale her with tales of your European travel exploits. When you wake up from your dream, scoff the sandwich and knock off a couple of tins. Laugh at Giles Coren by proxy. Try not to fart uncontrollably. It is the quiet coach, after all.

6) Feel the need to go to the toilet. Make it to the toilet. Realise, with your trousers around your ankles, that you didn't lock the door. Waddle to the door and lock it. Realise there is no toilet paper. Feel smug that you chose the financial-pages option from earlier.

7) Return to your original destination. Decide against a last pint at the pub by the station. Change your mind again. Change your mind again when you remember you still have a couple of tins left that will only need a couple of minutes in your freezer to chill back down.

8) Arrive home. Put tins in freezer. Wake up at three in the morning with

a) a massive urge to pee

b) the sound of a can ripping itself to pieces in your freezer.

Thanks to Craig Walker and his motley Caledonian crew for trusting me and sending them down Murder Mile alleyways in search of Sheffield's finest.


The Session #66: One Beer To Rule Them All

The Session this month is brought to you by DrinkDrank on the subject of designing your perfect brew: "The One Beer To Rule Them All".

Down by the lake, I had a dream.

I say dream, but after five hours of trout fishing with the sun on my back it was more like an hallucination. Bored of my ham-fisted attempts at snaring it, one massive trout split the still waters and spat a ring at me.

"This ring is destined to become part of beer history", it burbled in an overly-dramatic voice-over type way. "Wear it with pride and with honour. But be wary of the power it bestows".

And with that, it buggered off.

A dull gold ring with an un-nervingly good fit, no matter which finger I placed it on. The water's edge seemed to recede, a darkness rushed overhead. My sense of taste and smell went into overdrive. I knew exactly what to brew.

It would need the finest pale malt with just a dab of caramel malt to render a glowing orange wort. Styrian Golding, Strisselspalt and Hallertau-Hersbrucker hops to give it an almost herbal edge. A touch of candy sugar to add gravity. Dry-hopped and a bit of Brett to the finish.

A beer that would age from a dry feisty amber to something with spicy tartness. One that could be enjoyed fresh-as-you-fancy or dug-out-of-cupboard old. Served in a dazzling chalice by a roaring fireside or sank straight out the bottle by a lake full of reluctant trout...

... and then my finger felt as if it was on fire. The ring was burning. It shot off my hand of its own accord. My vision of a perfect beer began to ebb away.

Was I not the one who was to make history?

Glancing down at the burning gold, I could make out a fiery inscription upon it:

"One Beer to rule them all, One Beer to find them,
One Beer to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Orval where the Abbey lies".

Whatever. I scooped up the ring and threw it back into the water. That self-same fat trout from before lept up and caught it between its chubby lips, winked at me and then swam off.

Maybe someone else was destined to find that ring. Whoever it was, I bet it wouldn't result in a beer anywhere near as good as the one I'd dreamed of...


Fifty Shades Of IPA

Apparently, today is IPA Day. Now, you know I'm not one for the fetishisation of style. And IPA is for life, not just for August. Nevertheless, after exposing last year's IPA lies, I felt it was only fair to share these titbits I found on the interweb. From, uh, somewhere. Probably whatever the electronic equivalent is for the back of the bike sheds.

Fifty Shades Of IPA: work in progress

After a couple of hours, I'd really developed a taste for this. But I knew I had to go soon. I looked the hunky barman up and down and said, "Quick! Fill my growler!"


On my desk was a parcel. Had he sent me something? I'd never had anything come in a Jiffy before. Inside was a blindfold and so I knew. Tonight would be the night I had longed and ached for. He was going give me a blind tasting.


"Nearly there..  hold out your tongue!" He moaned softly as the cork popped. I felt it on my tongue; bitter, sticky, exciting. But I still thought it was a waste of Meantime IPA to be opened like that.


"Prepare to be hurt like never before", I said. And then stood in front of him and drank his last bottle of Pliny The Elder.


He said "would you like me to hold an ice cube in my mouth before we start? I was shocked; lowering the temperature of the beer in such dramatic fashion was bound to ruin his tasting experience.


I'd never seen such a box of joy. How far will we go? He leant closer and whispered in my ear: "Maybe to 100 IBUs. Maybe more".


"We need an escape word", I said. "Something we'd never say, even in the heat of passion". He looked my square in the eye and said: "Budweiser".


I was feeling funky in my fol-de-ra-ha-ha-ha department. I wanted to get my hands on his Great River Big Cock. But first, I wanted to be punished! So he gave me a bottle of Greene King IPA and locked me in the toilet.


"Put on this all-in-one rubber suit", he said. My fantasy was about to come true. He was going to let me scrub out the copper.


He looked at my warily. "Are you sure you want it"? he said. "Oh yes," I breathed, "just get it out and show it to me". I trembled at its size. I'd never seen a receipt from beermerchants that was so huge.


"Harder than that!" I screamed. "Harder! HARDER!". He concentrated. "OK... how much Simcoe do you need to brew a 75 IBU beer in a five-gallon batch, assuming an alpha-acid content of 14%?"


I was tired. I felt skunky and I wanted to go home. "Not tonight," he snapped. "You're coming round my place to fondle my bomber".

"You.. arrogant bastard!"

"No," he said. "Ruination".

"Go on then", I said. "But I need to for a wee first. I've been getting Jaipured all day".