(Re) Starting out on the Manchester Drinking Scene

I’m pleased to introduce the first of what will hopefully become a frequent feature on the blog. A series of posts on food, drink and travel from the interests and perspectives of friends, family and fellow bloggers. Today with Tryanuary very much at the forefront of his mind, is Dan Nisbet, a very old school friend of mine, with this awesome piece on the Manchester drinking scene. 

Over to you Dan:

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Something you always get asked when seeing friends around the ‘festive lull’. 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 I’ve found myself gaining interest in a burgeoning scene on the doorstep of where I work in Central Manchester. A scene which 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 not so long ago I 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 at least (whether this is symbolic I’m not sure) the Boddingtons brewery was sold off to one of the beer giants, flattened and now serves as parking largely for the arena and shoppers.

So what sparked this discovery of beer for me in Manchester?

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. They’re not what I would consider ‘craft’ friendly (your former Scream bars, for example) but now sold more than just the standard lagers. I saw options from breweries that were unfamiliar to me and in styles that I actually enjoyed: IPA, Porter and Mild. And then, there was an event last summer which some friends told me about. It was held at a disused former train station, Mayfield, with amazing street food along with pop up 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 in Leicestershire 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 in my hometown. Then I realised this was something I had an interest in and it was passing me straight by. It clicked, I wanted to go educate myself.

Charnwood Brewery beers

Image taken from charnwoodbrewery.co.uk

Starting with Tryanuary:

Manchester’s Northern Quarter has long been the ‘cool’ place to go, be seen and catch up. It’s attracted so many new ideas and independent businesses that it’s no surprise to see suppliers to these places gaining in popularity and filtering through to the rest of the city too.

The so-called ‘Piccadilly Beer Mile’ is right on my work’s doorstep so I’ve decided to go and try out. I’d said I was definitely not doing Dry January and then a friend linked me to #Tryanuary. So I set about it, trying to catch-up on 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.”

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 ⅔ 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.

Cloudwater Barrel Store, Manchester

I’m discovering that most of these breweries specialise in short runs of beer. The scene changes 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 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 hidden away in the more industrial parts of the city. They open in event spaces and despite the competition, seem to be in favour of collaborating with each other. Sharing knowledge and enjoying making beer together, releasing brews much like musicians might feature on each other’s albums.

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

Image taken from Track Brewing Facebook page.

My plans for the rest of Tryanuary around Manchester:

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 also bought a solo ticket to the ‘Runaway to Beermoth’ tasting evening later this month. These are both places I want to try. And, this event has the added bonus of being led by someone who knows exactly what they are talking about.

I’ve also discovered a number of small independent shops to support. They 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.

*Follow Dan on Twitter to find out how his Tryanuary adventures are going!* 

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