Sunday 14 April 2024

Manchester Craft Beer Crawl

A day out in Manchester, in which we steered clear of the trad pubs and went in search of craft beer on industrial estates, and shiny brewing equipment.

Mrs PropUptheBar insisted that we do some tourist 'stuff' being as her 2023 resolution to do something cultural every week went astray.
Our route from the station took us past Alan Turing in Sackville Gardens...
Into Chinatown...
Then the art gallery..
Before I heard those wonderful words: "It's time for a beer".

We were handily close to the Bundobust Brewery on Oxford Road, giving us the chance to combine lunch with a Manchester beer guide tick.
I walked along the length of the St Jame's Building trying to recall which bit was once Jilly's Rock World.  (The bit that's now Tesco Metro apparently).
Bundobust, on the other hand, is in a renovated part of the building which was once known as the cart entrance and led to a car park.

Bundobust (61-69 Oxford Road, Manchester, M1 6EJ)
It's a spectacular place with the bar at the far end of the main room, all underneath a skylight with the tall walls of the building rising above it.

I like Bundobust for its no-nonsense ordering at the bar, spicy veggie food, and quality beer choice.  The ideal spot for me for lunch, even if I never know quite how many dishes to order (generally too many).

We were given a table right under the tidy beer board, listing 16 keg lines and a Kernel Table Beer on cask.  My choice was the Bundobust 'East is East', a hoppy 6.5% New England IPA which went well with paneer tikka and bundo chaat.

Only after ordering did I spot the 10.5% Vault City strawberry supernova and Omnipollo pecan mud cake imperial stout.  Which, in hindsight, is probably just as well.

Suitably fed and watered, we were ready to get started on the brewery taps we had planned for the day.
It was a 1-mile walk east to the Piccadilly Trading Estate.  Here's the route for the day... 

With blue skies and sunshine, Manchester was looking fantastic.

I used to walk along Whitworth Street most days of the week when I was student in the Aytoun Building of Manchester Met.  The old Uni buildings have changed beyond recognition, whilst I never really appreciated quite how stunning some of the architecture around this bit of the city is.

Back in my student days very few folks would ever have ventured the other side of the tracks at Piccadilly Station.  Where you'll now find new-build high-rises, hotels, and several brewery taps.  The first of which we visited being Cloudwater...

Cloudwater Unit 9 - Brewery Tap (Unit 9, Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester, M1 2NP)
Giants of the Manchester craft brewing scene, Cloudwater occupy several of the Units along this road.  It was through the shutter labelled 'Barrel Store' that we entered.  Although there is space to sit downstairs, the bar itself is on the first floor.  All very bright in daylight hours, with stylish wooden bench seating; minimalist flower arrangements and menus for the Italian food truck on each table.
There were 22 beers on tap, handily listed as 'Easy Pints', 'One Offs', and 'Heavy Hitters'.  Of course I picked something very exotic and fairly strong from the heavy hitters list, before returning to the bar to try one of the two cask ales - an easy-drinking pale called 'The Pleasure of Finding Things Out'.
There was a superb beer list at Cloudwater which would have kept me happy for the whole afternoon.  Although the 'chill-out' coffee table techno that the DJ fella had put on was dreary and irritating and I was ready to move on.
Straight across the road, and one door down from the pop-up thrift market, is another brewery tap.

Track Brewery Tap (Unit 18, Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester, M1 2NP)
Track were previously located in a nearby railway arch (which now has new occupants and was somewhere we'd be heading to next).
They've expanded into this much larger light and airy industrial unit where there is lots of shiny brewing kit in the rear half, pizza being cooked to one side, bar counter and small fridge close to the door.  And a BIG houseplant in a barrel in the middle of the room...
I had a bit of beer envy here as Mrs PropUptheBar picked a 'Language Barrier Double Gingernut Stout'.  This was one of 4 different barrel-aged versions of the 12.5% imperial stout.
I was being much more sensible with the 5.6% cask 'Made in the Shade' - a very pleasant porter in a dimpled mug.

On a brewery tap roll now, we marched back down Adair Street, then right onto Sheffield Street, which runs adjacent to the railway lines.  Where you've got proper brewery taps of the  railway arch variety.
Sureshot (4 Sheffield Street, Manchester, M1 2ND)
Opened in 2022, this is a deceptively big railway arch, although considering the number of tracks leading into Piccadilly above it, I guess it's no surprise that this stretches some way back from the street.
The bar is midway through the room, odd art and the occasional neon sign decorating the walls, whilst brewing equipment is out of sight in the adjacent arch.

The music was drowned out by a raucous group of around 20 lads in tight jeans, presumably on a stag do.  The main man, in his felt jesters hat, was being forced to drink a third of some sort of cololurful concoction which he kept on squirming at, insisting he could manage no more.  Mrs PropUptheBar reckoned it looked like a Vault City sour, just the kind of thing she likes, and didn't know what all the fuss was about.

I stuck with the dark beer at Sureshot, drinking their very nice and strangely named stout: 'Dog and Horse at the Oatcake Shop'.

We moved on, just a few arches down the road, to somewhere a little bit different.
Balance Brewing and Blending Taproom (10 Sheffield Street, Manchester, M1 2ND)
Balance specialises in producing mixed culture, barrel-fermented beers.  Instead of shiny brewing equipment, the view into the depths of the archway is of dusty old barrels...
There were five beers available on tap: a 3.7% table beer or a saison from Balance themselves; guests from Pastore ('Sake Kasu Beer') and Beak or 
Union offering pale ale and lager for the less adventurous.
I ordered the 'Saison de Maison Blend 6' and the Pastore, then embarrassingly got them mixed up in the four steps between the bar and our table.  Both lovely unusual beers that made a nice change for the palate.

That was the plan complete for the brewery taps for the day.
Walking back through town, we made our way to a current Beer Guide pub that I've never set foot in.
The Molly House (26 Richmond Street, Manchester, M1 3NB)
There is a spectacular building-size mural on the side facing the gravel parking lot, then multiple rooms within this one-time tailors shop.  Gotta admit that I didn't know how spacious it was as we headed straight into the room to the left of the door, assumed that was it, grabbing the last table which was reserved for Angela in 30 minutes time.

On the bar were two beers each from local brewers Brightside and Big Trip.
My Big Trip was way past best, diligently returned on my behalf by Mrs PropUptheBar and replaced by the same breweries 'Wah Wah' pale ale.

It would have been good to bring you pictures of the intriguingly decorated upstairs rooms, but all I manged was this...sorry!

Time had raced by, the sun was getting lower in the sky, and we were beginning to think about what train back we needed to aim for.  
Just time for a bite to eat and one last beer in Society.  This is located next to the Bridgewater Hall, down some steps into a basin of the Rochdale Canal.  A good setting for fine weather with outdoor seating next to the water.
Society (101 Barbirolli Square, Manchester, M1 3BD)
This was launched by Vocation Brewery in 2021; a food hall featuring several vendors in kitchens along one side, cocktail, wine, and coffee bars, and a beer bar with a lengthy tap list.
It's yet another unusual Good Beer Guide entry for the city, although I can't fault the cask choice.

Tempting as the cask ale was, there lots of competition for my attention on the massive 30-strong tap lines.
I decided to end the day with something big, bold, and dark - Vocation's 8.4% 'Triple Choc Truffle' milk stout.  Absolutely wonderful stuff, along with a burger and dirty fries.

With seating for up to 350 folk, it's a noisy place, most tables at least part-occupied when we were there, and the hubble of shouted conversation blending into the electro music.  Not one for a quiet drink in trad surroundings, then.

With full belly and rosy cheeks, we departed Society ready for the journey home where it was Mrs PropUptheBar falling asleep on the train this time instead of me.
I had a determined plan to watch the Bet Shop Boys in the Nags Head at Macclesfield when we arrived back, but scooted straight past the door with my Travelodge bed calling out instead.  Turns out starting a craft beer tour at midday and picking a fair few 6%-and-upward beers isn't conducive with staying out late watching 80's tribute bands.

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