Drinking in Manchester: great beer up north
It’s no secret that Manchester is home to a thriving craft beer scene. It hosts Indy Man Beer Con, which is now a staple event in the UK beer events calendar, and is home to a list of emerging breweries, including the widely lauded Cloudwater Brew Co.
Yes, Manchester is a bona fide beer destination city. Alongside the new taprooms popping up under railway arches, the city has a long list of exceptional pubs and restaurants to complement the mouth-watering products of its local breweries.
The Marble Arch
73 Rochdale Road, Collyhurst, Manchester, M4 4HY
Invariably the first pub to come recommended to any beer drinker headed up north, the Marble Arch boasts Victorian character in abundance and an exceptional beer selection on keg and cask. Built in 1888, it housed Marble Beers until 2011. The pub retains some gorgeous original features, including high ceilings, a frieze and mosaic floor tiling. The most subtle feature is the famous sloping floor, which helpfully slants towards the bar. This is one of Marble’s pubs in the city – an all star line-up that also includes 57 Thomas Street and Marble Beerhouse – but has an ambiance that can’t be rivalled.
As you’d expect, staff are talkative, informed and offer a wonderful opportunity to explore Marble’s range if you’re unfamiliar with it. While the pub showcases Marble beers, there’s a guest menu as well. The 20th Anniversary Series beers were tasting fantastic on our visit, including Prime Time, a sessionable kolsch with lime zest. The Dobber, a retired IPA recently resurected with the help of beer writer Matthew Curtis, was available in cans. With a kitchen on site and a wealth of cheeses available, it's tempting to pass an entire afternoon in this welcoming gem.
Cloudwater Taproom/ Barrel Store
Arch 13, Sheffield Street, Manchester, M1 2ND
Recently crowned the 5th best brewery in the world by Ratebeer.com, it’s no surprise that people pilgrimage to Cloudwater’s taproom in droves. The location is modest, under a railway arch with communal tables set up inside amid rows up rows of wooden barrels lining the walls. Local bread and olives are available to satiate visitors and a rack of t-shirts and other merchandise are on display. The bar is equally as unpretentious as the space, a sole counter with a swiftly rotating chalkboard menu to order from. This is part of the Piccadilly Beer Mile, which includes five stops: Track Brewing Company, Alphabet Brewing Company, Beer Merchants, Chorlton Brewing Company and Squawk Brewing Company.
The beer flowing from the taps is tantalisingly fresh. On our visit, the Cloudwater and Other Half Brewing Company collaboration, Tremendous Ideas, proved popular. This juicy and complex Imperial IPA contains 50% oats, is hopped with Citra, Huell Melon, Vic Secret and fermented with both US and Manchester yeasts. It was bursting with orange, mango and melon, all complemented by a understated bitterness.
Alphabet Brewing Co
99 North Western Street, Manchester M12 6JL
Continuing along the Piccadilly Beer Mile, the Alphabet taproom is spacious and doubles as a foodie destination every Saturday. Food trucks are parked outside while inside, a DJ provides an afternoon soundtrack and beers are served up. The colourful and highly recognisable artwork of Manchester based illustrator, Nick Hamilton (aka The Hammo), which also adorns Alphabet's cans, helps brighten up the space.
Juice Springsteen, a tropical IPA, was thirst-quenching on a humid summer's afternoon, packing fruit salad aromas and a crisp finish . A to the K, their oatmeal pale ale, was equally as refreshing in the heat with a nice creamy body imparted from the oats.
The atmosphere here is easy-going and accommodates large groups. There were two options for food on our visit, including some moreish pies and some Indonesian fare, and the live music made it a no-brainer site for an extended stay.
75 North Western Street, Manchester M12 6DY
Moving along, adjacent to Alphabet is Beer Merchant's Manchester site. The beer distributors, who trade online as Cave Direct, offer up a range of drinks in their taproom and also host tap takeover events. Ample tables are lined up in two rows and the varied selection guarantees that palates won't tire. Even as the afternoon wore on and the evening creeped in, the ambiance remained relaxed and we enjoyed the selection of Tiny Rebel Brewing Company's beers that were featured that day until the need for food beckoned.
Yes, this only scratches the surface of what Manchester has to offer. We found that the Track taproom isn't open every Saturday (including on our visit) and sadly didn't have the time to visit Chorlton Brewing Company. But no matter where you end up drinking, be sure to squeeze in a visit to the legendary Bundobust, where you can fill your boots with vegetarian Indian street food and where the beer list just as noteworthy as the food.