Back at Indy Man 2019 we wondered upon a wine room set in the beautiful arches of the Victoria Baths venue. We had a great chat with Duncan Sime, one of the founders of Indy Man, and now the co-founder of Huddersfield Shop & Bar ‘Kwas’ along with partner Ola Dabrowska.
As Kwas celebrates its first birthday, we caught up with Duncan about his experience and thoughts on promoting food & drink events;
How did you start in the craft beer industry?
“I started off working at Common in the Norther Quarter in Manchester running their social media channels. Back then we only had Myspace, and Black Sheep on cask!
There were ‘craft’ elements creeping in like Brooklyn lager and local breweries like Marble and Red Willow. It all really kicked off when Port Street Beer House opened.”
How did you learn your trade? Was there any formal training?
“I mainly learnt the trade through putting on music events at Fuel in Withington. A monthly folk night called Red Deer Club was where I cut my teeth organising and booking bands / DJs, and then it transformed naturally into a record label. That’s were I met the guys from Common and I was kind of head hunted through folk music.
So I guess that is the most informal way of training, a lot of if it was being in the right place at the right time, also a bit of common sense helps.”
You were one of the founders of Indy Man Beer Con – how did the event come about?
There was a huge gap in the market. Having launched Port Street Beer we could see how popular the craft beer scene was and no one was really doing an alternative event to all the stuffy real ale festivals.
We searched far and wide for a venue and eventually found Victoria Baths. We knew it could happen as we spotted a hand pump on the bar left over from a wedding setup. The light bulb moment was right then, and the rest is history as they say.
Starting off with just 500 people, it has now turned into the beer-moth it is today, standing proud as the flagship UK brewery event that everyone must attend.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from running brewery events?
To take a break. Try not to do everything yourself as eventually it will wear you down. It was as small team at first, now it’s great to see a big production team in place to withhold a superb standard that we laid the foundations for.
You recently opened Kwas, Hudderfield’s first wine bar and shop, alongside your manager role at Magic Rock – what inspired you to do this?
I kind of fell out with beer, well not completely, just got a bit bored. Especially of the hop forward ones, I began to drink more sour beers and kind of fell in love with some more of the unusual wines out there. Plus we struggled to find vegan wines in the supermarket, as wine is not very clear when it comes to labelling!
After a recent trip to Wayward Wines in Leeds we felt very inspired by their set up and cosy atmosphere, so we though we could do something similar in Huddersfield. A year later we are now finding our feet in the natural wine world and seeing people enjoy the experience along the way.
Following your background in promoting music events, how does promoting food and drink events differ?
Pretty much the same, now I get to eat and drink instead of watching great bands . . . Ha! In all seriousness I see it more of ‘coming of age’ period. Your interests develop as you get older and it’s great to be able to work with people who have similar passions as you do, plus I never have an empty fridge now!
What do you think is next for the craft drink and food scene?
The vegan scene has developed so much in the past four or five years, it’s pretty amazing now to have access to at least some for of vegan food when you venture out. However this can make things a bit more saturated whilst everyone chases the ‘V pound’.
I am very interested in some ‘natural ciders’ that are coming out of the UK at the moment, it’s pretty much the same process as natural wine, but with apples. There’s some really tasty ones like Piltons, Ross On Wye, Little Ponoma and Olivers Cider.