Beer Cities: Manchester

Manchester city guide

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“This is Manchester, we do things differently here.” 

When this immortal phrase was (supposedly) uttered by the late television presenter and music magnate Tony Wilson, he wasn’t referring to the city’s beer culture, but to its vibrant, eclectic music scene. But he easily could’ve been. The city that birthed the sound of Oasis, Joy Division, New Order and The Happy Mondays, plus spaces like the famous Haçienda nightclub, is now home to Marble, Track, Cloudwater, Port Street Beer House, Beermoth and The Independent Manchester Beer Convention.

To understand why Manchester’s beer culture runs deep, you have to delve into its history. It was the birthplace of the now multinational-owned Boddington’s, but where this historical family brand was absorbed into capitalist ignominy, other local family brewers such as Holt’s, Hyde’s and J.W. Lees survived, as did their influence. It’s here that legendary brewer Brendan Dobbin established the West Coast Brewing Company in the back of the King’s Arms Hotel back in the 90’s. His Yakima Grande pale ale could well be the first example of US Cascade hops used in British brewing. Dobbin would later help with the establishment of Marble Brewery in the Marble Arch Inn on Rochdale Road. 

This rich brewing heritage is perhaps why there’s such a great understanding of good beer among a great many Mancunians. That so many traditional pubs have survived and take such immaculate care of their cask ale is testament to this history, and why as a result its modern beer scene has such meticulous standards. They take their ale seriously here. Second best is not good enough. 

In the explosion of new breweries following the start of the 2010’s, what set Manchester apart was how varied these new breweries were. Modernity measured by tradition from Runaway, heritage pursued by Beer Nouveau, immaculate lager brewing from Manchester Union, and imperial mint choc chip ice cream stouts from Wander Beyond. It’s a varied tapestry, and that’s even before you get to the heart of its culture; its pubs, bottle shops and bars. 

The city centre is a pub-crawler’s dream, from

The Arch, to The Crown and Kettle, through the delights of the Northern Quarter to Café Beermoth, the City Arms and onwards to Deansgate. But this is merely scratching the surface. It’s only when you begin to explore the various suburbs and happen upon wondrous places like Reasons to be Cheerful, Station Hop and The Epicurean, you begin to understand the importance of great beer to all corners of the community. 

In fact, Manchester might just be the best city for beer in the UK. Still doing things its own way, and, always, differently. 


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