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‘beer’ Category

  1. A Tale of Two Beer Festivals (in one city)

    January 26, 2018 by Daniel

    I hadn’t been to a Beer festival in years until this month when I’ve been to two in the space of a week. So it’s only right to compare and contrast them right?

    Two very different festivals with I think different audiences, reach and feel but one thing in common – a passion for providing a variety of interesting beer.

    Both venues are inextricably linked to the city’s railway history, both quite apt and suited to each site I think. The Grub hosted  Winter Beer Fest (#wbf18 was the requisite hashtag) was at ‘Fairfield Social Club’ – a new space that’s been carved out in the redevelopment of the disused Mayfield railway station (services ended for passengers in 1960, goods in 1986). The CAMRA hosted Manchester Beer and Cider Festival (#mbcf18, 650+ beers…) was held at Manchester Central, which has had better fortunes since closing to passengers getting refurbished in 1982 and being in almost constant use for a variety of events ever since. So the two venues belie the natures of each festivals I think. One is much more established than the other, has a following – the other is close to the roots of the nascent regeneration of the beer culture in the city – not to say these two are adversarial, not at all – many Breweries were present at each and each organisation definitely affects the other on the issues they want to be tackled by the industry, inclusiveness was something definitely being taken note of at the CAMRA festival. Some of the producers at the Grub festival restarting Cask production for the CAMRA festival.

    One festival might be for their regulars, the other seen as getting the word out? The CAMRA festivals seems certainly to have brought many Brewers to ‘tour’ Manchester with many bars having tap takeovers from those present at the festival (tiny rebel @ unit 101 / hawkshead @ the knott and over at the font for Track to barely scratch the surface), whilst they are up north I guess.

    There’s probably another post of writing about how the railways are supporting beer in Manchester, it seems that the numerous arches the city has are doing their bit to ‘incubate’ the burgeoning sector. Network Rail must be doing pretty well out of the beer business these days.


  2. Runaway Beer Tour

    January 19, 2018 by Daniel

    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.

  3. (Re)Starting out on the Manchester Drinking Scene

    January 5, 2018 by Daniel

    (originally published on


    New Years resolutions. It’s something you get asked when seeing friends around the ‘festive lull’ – what are your resolutions then? I usually answer along the lines of “Oh I don’t really do them” or “I haven’t had time to think about all that yet”. Of course, I intend to go to the gym more, eat better, all that good healthy stuff. But something I’ve found myself wandering into is the fact that on the doorstep of where I work in central Manchester there’s a burgeoning scene that’s sprung up and had completely passed me by. For one reason or another something I just had complete ignorance of it until now but something is happening in Manchester. It’s become an amazing city not just for the things it’s always been great at, music, culture, nightlife – it’s a fantastic place to discover beer.


    Now I remember not so long ago you would walk into a bar and scowl. As an ‘ale’ drinker, often there was very little on offer. You’d have your John Smiths and be happy. In Manchester whether this is symbolic or not I’m not sure, but the Boddingtons brewery was sold off to one of the beer giants, flattened and now serves as parking largely for the Manchester Arena and shoppers.

    So what sparked this discovery of beer for me in Manchester? Well I generally began to notice that there was a flourishing number of options on at not just the ‘ale’ pubs I frequented but even places I used to go as a Student that would not then have been considered ‘craft’ friendly – your former Scream bars for example, they no longer had on just the lagers everywhere does but options from many breweries that were unfamiliar to me and in styles I actually enjoyed, IPAs, Porters and Mild. And then there was an event last summer some friends told me about held at a disused former train station, Mayfield that had amazing street food on offer along with some great temporary bars from all these brewers I’d never heard of before – the place was absolutely packed. Hundreds of people all cramming in for this event that was secreted away in a previously desolate space.

    Over Christmas visiting family I went along to a brewery friends had been raving about (Charnwood Brewery – who have just announced a micropub of their own to open this year). The brewer spoke knowledgeably about what was going on on my very own doorstep and I realised, here was something I had an interest in and it was passing me straight by. It clicked, I wanted to go educate myself.


    The Northern quarter in Manchester has long been held as the cool place to go, be seen, catch up. It’s attracted so many new ideas and independent restaurants and pubs and along with it there’s been the establishment of suppliers to these places which are filtering through to the rest of the city too.

    The so called ‘Beer quarter’ or Piccadilly Beer Mile was something on the doorstep of my workplace I decided to go and try out. I’d spoken about how I was definitely not going to do Dry January and a friend linked me to #Tryanuary. So I set about it, trying to catch-up to all the developments that had passed me right by.  Here’s a quote from their website: “Tryanuary was created to encourage beer fans to support independent breweries, pubs, bars and other retailers during what can be a challenging month for the industry.” Sounds like a good way for me to learn about what’s happening on my doorstep, with many places around the country putting on special events for the month.

    I started off at the end of my first working day of the year by walking over to Cloudwater’s Barrel Store. It was a little early for most, so it was empty when I arrived. But the space was fantastic, I checked my ? pint in on and studied the beautiful designs on the cans I bought to take home. Listening to the music and watching them pack up Beers that were going out to be delivered.

    Their Barrel Store is open Wed/Thu from 4pm and Fri/Sat/Sun afternoons.


    I’m discovering that all of these breweries pretty much specialise in short runs of beer. The scene changes often and quickly, so you need to keep close tabs on them via their tweets and facebook updates. The taps aren’t always just ‘open’ but you can find their beers varyingly across the city and beyond. You just need to know how to look for them. Often they are based around the numerous railway arches that are dotted through the city, they are often in the more industrial parts of the city and may be tricky to find the entrance to or not be in a particularly inviting area. They open up in Event spaces and despite the large number of companies in a small area seem to be much more in favour of collaborating with each other, sharing knowledge and enjoy making beer together, releasing brews much like musicians might feature on each others albums.

    There’s much going on in the development of this more artisanal approach to beer making. BrewDog and others are pushing to more clearly define what ‘Craft Beer’ actually means. Certainly in Manchester it’s becoming a way to get people into the bars in stark contrast to bygone years where homebrewing might have been slightly looked down on and people would want to only rely on their old favourites. These new (to me anyways!) brewers try to espouse their views, ideas and morals along with their own tastes in what a beer should be and if they can make the world a slightly better place along the way then that makes all the effort even more worthwhile.


    So that’s my start to #Tryanuary.

    I plan to go visit Track next, their Tap is open Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons and is just a couple of doors down from Cloudwater.

    I’ve bought a solo ticket to the Runaway to Beermoth tasting evening later this month which are two places on my list to try with the added bonus of being led around by someone who knows exactly what they are talking about.

    I’ve also discovered a number of small shops to support that seem to stock some amazing beers that you just wouldn’t find in your local supermarket. From the aforementioned Beermoth NQ shop to Bunbury’s which Bolton CAMRA also named their pub of the year.


    The Manchester Beer festival is on at the end of the month at Manchester Central and many will be looking forward to the announcement of Indy Man Beer Con 2018 usually held in the beautifully restored Victoria Baths, for which the tickets sell out in a manner not unlike the mad dash for Glastonbury tickets.