(originally published on gingeybites.com)
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 untappd.com 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.