indy man beer con

Ventile Q&A | Thirsty Games

We caught up with Thirsty Games 2019 winner, Ventile Brew Co, to see how life is treating them after last year’s IMBC victory. I mean, there’s not really been much going on has there. Doi. Entries for The Thirsty Games 2020 are still open. If you’re eligible, you should most certainly apply HERE. The Thirsty Games is IMBC’s competition to find the best new small breweries in the UK. Let’s speak to Dave from Ventile to find out his experience of last year…

Hello Dave. Congratulations on winning The Thirsty Games 2019! How was your experience pouring at the festival?

Thanks very much. It’s the classic cliche I’m afraid but it really was a dream come true to be pouring at IMBC. I’ve been a punter at the festival for 6-7 years so it was great to experience the other side of the festival so to speak. To be stood in a room pouring my beers with the likes of Creature Comforts, Burning Sky and Garage was mind blowing and something that’ll stay with me forever. It was also great to take part in the competition alongside Cellar Boys and Vault City who I had a great time with over the weekend.

How was the response – both from the public and industry – to you winning the competition?

Really good. It was great to have fellow brewers coming up afterwards congratulating me and the response from the general public post festival was great.
indy man beer con
Was there a particular beer that you brought to IMBC 19 that you feel helped bring the trophy home?

It’s hard to say really. My mindset was always, this may be the only chance I get to showcase my beers at this level so why not put out a full spread. I was really happy with Stairway To The Best Party, which was a coconut, cacao & coffee imperial stout. It was insane getting people coming up to the Thirsty Games stand who’d marked it as a beer to try at the festival asking when it was pouring.

You won The Thirsty Games 2019 under the ÖL Brewery moniker – very much a one man brewing operation. You’ve now set up your own brewery with Ventile Brew Co. Can you tell us a little bit about this new direction?

Winning the competition definitely was the confidence boost I needed to push on to set up for myself. I feel brewing at ÖL awarded me the time to find my identity so to speak and to really hone my craft but apart from at the festival, my beers never left the bar where the kit was setup. So Ventile was the natural next step for me. Bigger kit, bigger space and hopefully a wider audience for the beer itself.

What is your current brewing setup and what are your plans for the future?

My new setup is a 3bbl kit with three fermenters in a 1500sq ft space located in an old cotton mill, South Manchester.
The long term plan is to have a taproom onsite with a permanent food offering that’ll compliment the taproom experience so to speak, obviously when safe to do so.

Like many brewers, you come from a culinary background. How does your kitchen experience influence your approach to Ventile?

I always saw kitchens as a place to experiment after working in a high end restaurant when I first started in the hospitality sector and I think that stuck with me. I also think when working with food you’re always looking to find balance within a dish using different ingredients, and I think that’s very much the same when developing a recipe for a beer, so there’s definitely a similar mindset that’s transferable between food and beer.

indy man beer con

Ventile are the first Manchester brewery to win The Thirsty Games. As places open back up into new normality, what are your food and drink tips for visitors to the city?

Good question.

Coffee: Siop Shop, Pollen Bakery
Food : Tokyo Ramen, Bundobust, Nell’s, Arndale Food Market, Listo Burrito, Mughli
Bevs: PSBH, Station Hop, The Magnet, Beermoth, Nordie, Heaton Hops.

Which new breweries are catching your attention in 2020?

Not sure how new all of these are but these are newish to me.
New Barns, Glasshouse, Boxcar, Dig Brew co, Overtone, Wilderness.

Lastly, it’s an exciting – and I’m sure a scary – time to be starting a new business in the Covid-19 landscape. The thirst of the nation doesn’t appear to have diminished over the past months. How can thirsty punters pick up Ventile beers? And what should drinkers look forward to from Ventile in the coming months?

To start with we’ll be just selling kegs via direct wholesale so hopefully you’ll start to see our beers at bars in and and around Manchester soon enough. We want to get beer into cans as soon as we can so then you’ll be able to order off our website ( for delivery nationwide. We’ll also be offering free delivery within certain postcodes close to the brewery via our electric cargo bike.

Beer-wise Ventile will have a strong core range of four of five beers that’ll be around most of the time and then to experiment around that with a mixed fermentation and barrel ageing program.


indy man beer con

Enter The Thirsty Games 2020


The Thirsty Games is IMBC’s competition to find the best small and upcoming breweries operating in the UK today. This year will be the fifth year of The Thirsty Games.

From nationwide submissions we will pick the best three entrants to present as The Thirsty Games 2020 finalists. A public vote, alongside an industry panel, will decide the winner of The Thirsty Games 2020.

In previous years, The Thirsty Games bar has been a focal point of the physical festival at Victoria Baths. This year, with IMBC 2020 not happening in its usual guise due to COVID-19, public voting will assume a new normal form. In the next months we will look to provide you with options to sample The Thirsty Games finalists. Stay tuned for updates.

The winner of The Thirsty Games 2020 will receive prizes from Thirsty Games supporters Lallemand, Yakima Chief Hops, and Simpsons Malt. Basically all the ingredients you need to make great beer, from three of the greatest suppliers around. The winner will also become a featured brewery at IMBC 2021. A prize fund and further incentives will also be bestowed upon the crowned brewery.

Previous Thirsty Games winners are ÖL Brewery (now Ventile Brew Co, 2019), Liquid Light (2018), Burning Soul (2017), and Fivecloud Brew Co (2016). Thirsty Games alumni includes Donzoko, Yonder, Little Earth Project, Affinity Brew Co, Wilde Child,  Maregade,  Cellar Boys, and Vault City.


Use this FORM if the below criteria applies. 


The entrants should be 10bbl single brew length or under in size, or a brewery operating on a cuckoo basis in the UK.

The entrants should have been producing beer for less than 24 months.

The entrants should have their beer on general sale and be duty paid.


We want to sample your A-game beers. Send us your most interesting and creative samples.

Send a minimum of two cans / bottles per beer entered. Please send no more than three different beers.



All samples must reach Port Street Beer House, 39-41 Port Street, Manchester M1 2EQ by 1st September 2020.

The chosen three Thirsty Games finalists will be announced shortly afterwards.

Thank you and good luck!


IMBC 2020 Cancelled

We are sad to announce that IMBC will not be taking place at our beloved Victoria Baths this year.

This cancellation, for the most part, has been necessary because it would be almost impossible to manage social distancing within the baths. We would have to enforce a one-way system, which would dramatically reduce the amount of people allowed in the baths at a certain time and it would make accessing each of the rooms really difficult. It would also place an immense burden on our volunteers and partners. This would impact the spirit of the festival greatly and it just wouldn’t be the IMBC experience you know and expect.

We are still determined to deliver a line-up of sweet activity over the IMBC weekend and we are certainly not going to let it go by without raising a glass to our craft beer community that has been hit particularly hard by this pandemic. We are committed to using the IMBC brand to help uplift and support the industry that we are part of. Stay tuned for updates.

The way that the beer community has mobilised and adapted to ever-changing new normal obstacles over the past months has been inspirational. Please continue to support independent breweries, bottle shops, and pubs where you can. Your patronage will be vital to them in the coming months. Stay safe and enjoy good beer responsibly.

indy man beer con


Dear IMBC class of 2019,

After a few days to recover, we’re now reflecting on what was our best Indy Man yet. We wanted to say a monumentally HUGE thank you for coming along and supporting independent craft beer in Manchester and across the globe. From your posts on social media to chatting to you in person, it’s clear that what we do makes so many people happy. That is our single most important aim and makes all of our hard work totally worth it.

Beer, as ever, was the real hero and we would like to extend big thanks to the brewers thereof, our wonderful volunteers, Victoria Baths and the awesome team there, IMBC food vendors, festival supporters and sponsors, everyone who helped out in the production, and again – YOU! We’d just be an empty swimming pool full of beer without you. Which sounds cool but we’d be bankrupt in a day. And very drunk.

We diverged from a single token system this year and hope you all understand why. Craft beer is expensive and it is getting more so. We needed to reflect this in our pricing and also make sure that the token price was kept low for those who didn’t want the super spenny stuff. The range of pricing was such that using 2018’s system would have seen 2019’s token price rise to over £3.30, but we actually managed to reduce the average cost to £2.63. Nevertheless, this wasn’t a decision we took lightly and we thank you for your understanding.

We would like to extend our gratitude to IMBC ’19 sponsors for helping to make this year so memorable. Each room guardian did an incredible job of making Victoria Baths their own: Beer Merchants, Burning Sky, Cloudwater, Deya, Fierce, Lervig, Siren, Verdant and Wylam. We’re sure you’ll agree that their spaces were a joy to visit.

Let’s also thank our IMBC ’19 supporters. This year’s glass was one of our finest yet and was brought to you with the help of Kegstar. Official keg supporters Kegstar also performed stainless steel keg heroics as usual, Simply Hops took wonderful care of the brewers in the lounge (tea, snacks, games and comfy spots galore) and The Brewer’s Eye app kept beer lovers in the know. Telcom boosted the WiFi at Victoria Baths and enabled us all to ‘gram faster, thank you! Awesome Merch made our swag dreams come true by printing all of this year’s merch (please do use them for all your print needs) and TicketWeb made ticketing an absolute breeze. Last but not least, KeyKeg were a great help as Keg Management Supporter with the recycling of their kegs that you guys helped empty!

We must also thank our Thirsty Games supporters Lallemand, Simpson’s Malt and Yakima Chief Hops. What an honour it was to crown Manchester-based ÖL Brewery our 2019 winners! If you voted on the app, good on ya. Make sure to pay a visit to ÖL at Hatch on Oxford Road. You can read more about all of our sponsors here.

indy man beer con

2019’s Food Village was stacked with incredible vendors: Diamond Dogs, Dim Sum Su, Donner Summer, Firebird Hope, Great North Pie, Honest Crust, Neato Burrito, and Vaso Kitchen, thanks for lining our stomachs so deliciously, and thanks to Siop Shop and Holy Crab for bossing the Snack Shelf. Our ever-growing array of non-beer drinks came courtesy of the lovely folk from Kwas, Booch & Brew, Square Root Soda, Idle Hands and our Cocktail Bar. Thanks for helping us create a festival with something for everyone.

A special thanks goes to official IMBC ’19 illustrator Kate Prior for creating the unforgettable fish artwork in its many guises (you snapped up the “Jaws” tee quicker than we could say ‘gimbagagompa coffee vanilla granola breakfast stout’, obvs), and Patrick Cavanagh for building the Indy Man app, a true feat of digital engi-beering.

The dates for IMBC ’20 are set; Thursday 1st October – Sunday 4th October. The venue remains the same; Victoria Baths, our one true love. More details about the ticket release date will follow in 2020 so keep an eye on our social mediums and sign up to our newsletter for further information.

Phew, thirsty for next year now. Until 2020 stay safe, keep experimenting with new beers and supporting the independent. The IMBC team are also responsible for year-round fun at Port Street Beer House, Common, The Beagle and The Pilcrow, plus your warm weather beer fix at Summer Beer Thing. Come and say hi!

We’d love to hear any feedback you have about this year’s event. Drop us a line or complete this short survey. If you go the survey route we’ll enter you into a competition to win two tickets for IMBC ’20 and a £50 bar tab at Port Street Beer House. Wahey!

Thank YOU,



A very special thanks goes to our colleague Seb Mariner. If you’ve visited a sponsor’s room or lucked out with a pop-up tasting, you did so because of Seb’s tireless work to make IMBC bloody awesome. After years of dedicated service Seb is moving on, but he’ll always be part of the IMBC Crew. Best of luck, mate x

indy man beer con

2019 Feedback

We’d love to get your feedback on this year’s event so we can continue to deliver the best possible version of Indy Man Beer Con.

Complete this short survey (your answers will be anonymous) and we’ll enter you into a competition to win two tickets for IMBC’20 and a £50 bar tab at Port Street Beer House. Bring on the beers.

indy man beer con

IMBC 19 Photos

What a year. Perhaps our best yet? Photos by Conrad Ohnuki, Jody Hartley and Shane Harrison.

indy man beer con

Tastings Photos 2019

Lots of you got a taste of the good stuff from some of the best names in the biz. Huge thanks to all breweries that took part and offered their priceless expertise…

Burning Sky, Deya, Track, Fantome, Overworks, Arclight, Cascade, Dry & Bitter, Omnipollo, Creature Comforts, Wild Beer Co, Mikkeller, To Ol, Fuerst Wiacek, Pohjala & Saint Mars of the Desert, we love yas.

Photos by Conrad Ohnuki.

IMBC 19 Sponsors

Indy Man simply wouldn’t happen without the support of a dedicated network of businesses, each committed to the betterment of the independent craft beer industry. Show them some love!


We are proud to partner with the following breweries in their own individual spaces at Victoria Baths for Indy Man Beer Con 2019…


Manchester’s very own Cloudwater Brew Co. are guardians of the old Males First Class / Gala pool aka IMBC Room 1. Cloudwater march to the beat of the changing seasons, bringing an invitation to enjoy the scarcity and abundance the natural world offers.


In the VB Sports Hall (the old Males Second Class Pool) we have Burning Sky. Conceived by ex Dark Star head brewer Mark Tranter in a Sussex barn, Burning Sky brewery is hidden away in the south downs and as such allows them to brew uncompromising brews of quality and tradition. They use traditional techniques that involve slower yeasts and long maturation times.

Room 3 | WYLAM

Wylam are back for another year, manning the old Females Pool aka IMBC Room 3. Founded in 2000, Wylam is a 30 Barrel Micro Brewery that resides at the Palace of Arts in Exhibition Park, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Green Room | SIREN

The Turkish Rest Room or Green Room is tiled from floor to ceiling and has four unique stained glass windows including the remarkable Angel of Purity window. Siren Craft Brew hope to lure you into this amazing space with their adventurous but drinkable beers, designed to be accessible yet flavourful enough for those seasoned beer fans to return to time and time again.

Turkish Baths | DEYA

Cheltenham natives Deya Brewing are Siren’s neighbours in the intimate surroundings of the Turkish Baths. Founded on a passion for outstanding beer and the vision to create fresh, intense, delicious beers, Deya’s focus is predominantly on soft, hoppy beers.

Pineapple Room | VERDANT

Named after its distinctive stained glass window, the Pineapple Room is home to Cornwall’s Verdant Brewing Co. in 2019. Since Verdant started brewing back in 2014, they decided that hoppy beers were what we wanted to be drinking; juicy, hoppy, unfiltered hazy beers and always vegan.


Located behind the Baths is the Lervig x Beer Merchants tent. Hailing from Norway, Lervig are a force in the world of craft beer. Created after the townspeople of Stavanger revolted against the mass brewery attempt to sell them substandard beer. Now known for bold tastes and consistency of their brews, Lervig are making craft beer for the masses not just beer geeks.

Long-time supporters of IMBC, head to Beer Merchants for the best take away beers in town. One of the UK’s first online beer retailers, Beer Merchants have worked with partners in the beer industry for nearly two decades, sourcing world-class craft beer from all around the globe and delivering it direct to people’s doors.

Food Village 2 | FIERCE BEER

On the other side of the food village you’ll find our Aberdonian pals Fierce, making their debut as a room sponsor at IMBC19. Fierce don’t make boring beer. They are passionate about provenance too, using local Scottish ingredients, services and equipment to produce their mouthwatering selection.


It’s not just the breweries that make Indy Man so special. Here’s a rundown of our lovely 2019 supporters…


IMBC19’s glass is brought to you by global beverage container solution specialists Kegstar. Kegstar lead the way in stainless steel kegs principally for beer and cider businesses operating in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and USA.

Brewers Lounge | SIMPLY HOPS

Keeping all of our brewers refreshed and rested, Simply Hops are the masters of a festival brewers lounge. SH provide the best quality whole hops to the beer industry.


2019’s beer mats are brought to you by The Brewer’s Eye, the perfect app to enjoy, experience and explore the wonderful world of beer in a relaxed rating-free zone. Download the app for iPhone or Android now and join a new beer community today.

Merchandise | AWESOME MERCH

Boy, do we have some corking merch for you this year. All of our branded goodies are expertly made by Awesome Merch, THE go-to company for custom merchandise. Awesome Merch make branded stuff for all kinds of people, all in-house, from T-shirts for bands, stickers for artists, to banners for events. They make us look good!


Helping us ‘gram faster at IMBC19 is Telcom, another Manchester business making waves in their sector. Telcom are on a mission to change the country’s internet, providing ultrafast business broadband and dedicated leased lines over wireless or fibre.

Keg Management | KEYKEG

Our wonderful Keg Management Supporter is KeyKeg, an award-winning, world-leading sustainable keg provider.

Tastings & Ticket Partner | TICKETWEB

TicketWeb is a leading self-service online marketing and ticketing company, explicitly dedicated to the independent venue and promoter. They make ticketing for Indy Man easy peasy.


2019’s Thirsty Games competition is supported by Lallemand, Simpson’s Malt and YCH.

Lallemand’s presence in the brewing industry dates from the early 1970s when the company started producing dried pure culture brewing yeasts for beer kit manufacturers in Canada. In subsequent years, their activity has expanded to the production of other specific ale and lager beer yeasts for different clients in the United States, Europe and Australasia.

The home of good malt since 1862, Simpsons Malt are fifth-generation malt company and brewers malt suppliers supplying the global beer and whisky industries, based in Northumberland.

As a 100% grower-owned network of family hop farms, Yakima Chief Hops is uniquely positioned to establish strong relationships between the growers who supply their super-premium hops and their innovative brewing customers. YCH’s mission is to connect family hop farms with the world’s finest brewers, providing the highest quality hop products.