MANCHESTER BEER WEEK: Brewery Expo
For a few boring reasons we can’t remember, we didn’t really get involved in last year’s Manchester Beer Week. If this year’s event is anything to go by, it seems like we missed out on a lot. Long before this year’s calendar of events kicked off, we were determined to get stuck in and atone for our absence last year.
One event we weren’t going to let pass us by was the properly massive brewery expo. For one day only, eleven Manchester breweries tapped some of their choicest barrels and opened up to the great unwashed. Sure, some breweries are open every week. But others have only opened sporadically (if ever). More importantly, there was a free t-shirt on offer if we got a stamp from each brewery. We had to seize this opportunity.
We started in the Green Quarter (or is that Red Bank?). First stop was new kids on the block, Beatnikz Republic. For a railway arch, the space is pretty colourful and airy. Unfortunately, we missed the beer and doughnut pairing session they had had on, and most of the doughnut-accompanying beers had been finished off by the time we arrived. However, we got to try a splash of the Pecan porter, which was delicious. They also had a good session pale on, but we wished we could've had a little more of the dark stuff.
Next up, Manchester stalwarts Runaway brewery. We’d never visited before, and really liked the mezzanine bar and outside area overlooking the post-industrial babbling brook. The smoked porter was on point, almost like a German Rauchbier. The Manchester Tart saison, inspired by the pastry of the same name, was even better.
Keen to crack on and complete the crawl, we popped round to Runaway's neighbours at Blackjack Brewery. Good points were the super friendly bar staff and big range of beer, as well as the super juicy Club Tropicana. The glass deposit and token system was a bit more faff than we might have liked considering the super important rush we were in. We almost forgot the all important T-shirt stamps.
Finished with the Green Quarter cluster, we crossed the city centre to start the final stretch along Picaddilly/Ancoats’s North Western Street. And what a stretch it was. Cloudwater was one-in-one-out, so we skipped ahead to Track’s brew cavern. The cracking fruity IPA El Capitan was our favourite. We fished our drinks and made a u-turn back to the renowned Cloudwater. We were impressed by the Amarillo Pale.
Feeling somewhat tipsy, we strolled a little further down North Western Street to Alphabet. Former home of GRUB, this massive brewtap is open weekly and we’ve been a few times before. As always there were some excellent food vendors on. We needed some scran by this point, so grabbed a rendang curry and washed it down with a refreshing Juice Springsteen and the inimitable Flat White Breakfast Stout.
The vibe and beers at Alphabet were great... it’s a shame the guy who served us our drinks brought the negativity by needlessly slagging off Alphabet's fellow brewers. As you might be able to tell from our glowing write-up, we’re a pretty cheery beery bunch. Being rude about your competitors isn’t really necessary in our book! We can make up our own minds.
Next was Dan’s. We’ll be honest: we’d never heard of the guy. He’d put on a bit of shindig though. As well as his own beers, the good people of Hawkshead, Marble and Magic Rock had also crammed into this humble railway arch. There was such a selection that it was tough to pick a favourite, although Dan let us taste some of his wine barrel-aged imperial stout which was stonking.
The clock was ticking on that free t-shirt. Heading further down North Western Street, we managed to cross the Mancuinian Way and arrive at heritage-mad Beer Nouveau in one piece. There was a bit of a scrum at the main bar so we grabbed a Raspberry Wheat from cuckoo brew outfit Origami. Next stop was Chorlton Brewing Co.’s miniscule barrel store. They had two sour beers on: a light one and a dark one. We tried the dark one. Those of us who love sour beers liked it, those who don’t like them so much weren’t so keen.
Starting to feel the burn, we made it to our penultimate stop at Squawk’s brewtap, at the far end of North Western Street. Not going to lie, our memory gets a little hazy at this point. Beers were pretty good, we think. Decidedly worse for wear, we finally made it to Manchester Brew Co., fabled site of the free t-shirt. We drank an very good S.M.A.S.H. pale, played a terrible game of ping pong and finally got our final stamp. Excellent. And we were done.
In short, it was a crawl to remember (although parts of it we can’t). Eleven brewery stops plus four special guests. Big thanks to the Manchester Beer Week organisers for getting it together. But wait, it's time for our small gripe. It's this: for an eleven-stop stagger, it was a shame that hardly any of the breweries were doing 1/3rd pints. We’d rarely complain about having to drink lots of beer, but it became a bit of a slog due to the sheer minimum amount of beer we had to drink to finish the course. Still, we have no regrets.