Mixed culture Manchester

For craft producers breaking down walls between great food and drink products, Manchester is a dream come true, writes Rachel Hendry

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I always judge a beer establishment by its wine list. You may think there are better criteria – the cost of a pint, the presence of scampi fries, how many staff members are dressed in Carhartt – but you would be incorrect.

My theory is that if the same amount of consideration is applied to the wine as it is to the beer, if there is consistency, then there is a greater chance of that same amount of care being applied to all aspects of the venue. If someone has thought of wine as well as beer, then maybe there is thought applied to its people, too, for wellbeing of staff and for diversity of community.

Manchester is a city with a strong beer identity – beer has motivated my last three visits to the city – but what is there to be gained from working with wine alongside such a vibrant, local beer scene I wonder? Daniel Martin takes care of the impeccable wine programme at Flawd, a natural wine bar and bottle shop situated by the New Islington Marina in Manchester, and I ask him just this. 

“Just like the natural wine world is a small community within a much wider world of wine, the craft beer scene is the same, with pockets of people and breweries who are taking principles and approaches to their beer that we take on the food we serve and the wine we source,” Daniel says. “It has certainly affected how we stock our beers alongside the wines on our shelves.”

Shelves are certainly a good place to start, as what a venue chooses to stock and why can tell you a lot about its values as a business, about what factors form its identity. It’s a shame then that there is a tendency to apply limiting binaries to these identities – you are either wine or you are beer – and diminish the opportunities for leaning and discovery in the process. 

Flawd team

“We need to continue to work at creating a crossover of guests and consumers who are interested in both beer and wine. I feel sometimes people feel they are one or the other,” Daniel tells me. “But if we can continue to collaborate as breweries and wine bars, brewers and wine sellers, the more people will be encouraged to explore the other and try new things. This is what excites me about the continuing collaborative energy between the beer and wine scene.”

An example of this collaborative energy can be seen in the relationship between Track Brewing Co – a brewery based in Manchester – and Isca – a wine bar and bottle shop located in Levenshulme. Track and Isca have collaborated on events such as Summer Food and Saisons, Beers in the Garden and, more recently, a night of ‘Chess, Cheese, Beer, Blues and Wine’.

Stefan Melbourne is the events and creative manager at Track. I ask what he’s learned from working alongside wine in this way.

“Working with Isca has been a huge honour and delight,” Stefan says. “They aren't just interested in working with a wine they like because of the taste, they want a connection with the grower and to really understand what drives them, so they can then carry that forward and convey it to the drinker.

Isobel and Caroline, Isca Wines founders

“Once my friend went in there and rather than being asked 'what kind of wine do you like?', they asked, 'what kind of day are you having?' and then brought a wine out that they thought captured that mood,” Stefan continues. “I think these personal touches can really elevate an experience.”

Having an innate understanding of not only what makes a drink special, but of how best to pair it with a drinker is a quality shared by a lot of the drinks professionals I admire. It’s how I got into beer in the first place, by having people who knew their beers inside and out take the time to get to know my palate and cater to it accordingly. 

When passionate drinks professionals look beyond their speciality, they can often unleash their capacity as an expert, through a greater appreciation of the world around them.

I am reminded of this when speaking to Matthew Dredge, the Assistant Manager at Manchester’s Café Beermoth, about what inspired his collaboration with Yellowhammer, a pottery studio and bakery serving natural wines in nearby Stockport. Yellowhammer is the brainchild of baker Rosie Wilkes, potter Joe Hartley and chef Sam Buckley, and was a highlight of my last visit north.

Rosie (baker), Sam (chef) and Joe (potter), Yellowhammer founders

“I guess the initial thing is probably not the wine but the bread,” Matthew tells me when I ask what made Yellowhammer the perfect partner for an event focusing on UK Wild Ales, held in December of 2022. “Rosie is super modest about what she does, but she makes the best bread I’ve had in the UK and she’s very passionate about it. So her saying ‘I’m going to make the best product I can out of this ingredient’, that shares a lot with brewers and wine makers.

“The wine world and the wild ale world fit closer in terms of being kind of smaller producers that are super passionate about what they're doing, with a real focus on quality. Obviously they're different, but Rosie and I have always drunk beer and wine together on the same night. It feels weird that they're always so separated,” Matthew continues. “I think there's a lot more crossover than people realise.”

This thrilling crossover, where different drinks and their communities connect – where wine, beer and food – all learn from and with each other, can be seen across Manchester, making the city one of the UK’s most exciting for thoughtful hedonists.

“This city needs even more people doing their thing and investing in the local community,” Daniel from Flawd rightly sums up. “It shouldn’t be seen as competition, but as a way of making the city a better place.”

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