In an effort to rediscover my city I was browsing around twitter when I discovered something exactly like what I wanted to do, a tour led by a brewer of first a brewery and then a few venues around the area. The beer was paid for in the ticket (and included a donation to a local homelessness charity).
We started off at The Runaway brewery. I’d bought the last ticket so was a little anxious about going on my own and not knowing anybody. As is often the case the brewery is under one of the railway arches (we have quite a few of those in Manchester) and a little tricky to find, the entrance tucked away in a Network Rail yard. It’s January and Manchester and so of course it was dark, windy and wet but I was welcomed in a offered a choice of beer straightaway.
Once everybody had arrived Mark introduced himself and the plan for the evening. He went through 3 of the beers they make at Runaway, a Winter Saison, an American Brown Ale and a Dry Irish Stout. He talked about the 4 basic ingredients that go into beer and how the endless combinations result. He passed around different kinds of barley and some hops so we could get a feel and a smell of them and we all tried the beers.
Then we went of to Mackie Mayor, a new venue that’s a refurbished Grade II Listed 1858 market on Ancoats street, it was busy inside, lots of outlets and we gathered around Jack In The Box and handed a Pale Ale each. We were here to hear about the selling side of beer and how beer is kept in bars. Jack In The Box is run by Blackjack Beers and we were told in detail about Keg and Cask keeping. Mark had a little trick up his sleeve, he doesn’t normally do Cask but had brought one of Pale Ale to Jack In The Box for our second drink there so we were able to compare the difference between the same batch of beer in a Keg and then in Cask – it was really illuminating the difference. Opinion was split right down the middle as to what the group preferred. Mark spoke about the difficulties in quality control and consistency with Cask and how much can go wrong that they the brewer ultimately get held responsible for (despite often not being at fault).
We then went round the corner to Beermoth, a bottle shop on Tib street that is quite a treasure trove. We went down into the cellar for a tasting session where 4 International beers of different styles were being set out for us., a Belgian saison, a US Sour/Wild Ale, a US Sour Brown Ale and a Dutch Imperial Stout. Sours are quite a new thing to me and also for a few in the group and kind of stole the show a bit I think. We had a great discussion about wild versus clean breweries and about breweries using barrel aging and the results that experimentation like that can have.
Some had planned ahead and brought a rucksack for purchases from the shop, I will definitely have to return to stock up myself.
Then our final venue was The Smithfield Tavern, next door to Mackie Mayor and again run by Blackjack. We had one more beer, this time from Buxton Brewery and were left as a cohesive group reminiscing about music memories in Manchester.
It was a great night out and I learnt (and drank) a lot. I’ve come away with some great places to keep in mind and return to.