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Mancunians are not short on self-confidence, but when it comes to beer, they’ve got good reason: there are five traditional family brewers in and around the city plus dozens of modern operations, including Cloudwater, recently ranked the second best brewery in the world by users of the influential American website ratebeer. Manchester Beer Week, an annual celebration of the city’s scene, is well worth checking out while IndyManBeerCon is the beer festival on which most modern British efforts are based.
Here’s my selection of five great places to drink in Manchester:
Most ‘where to drink’ lists don’t start with a restaurant, but most restaurants aren’t like Bundobust. There are as many as 15 beers on tap here at any one time, with the best breweries from around the UK and Europe (such as Lost and Grounded, Thornbridge and Dry & Bitter) represented. There’s cask ale, too, and the food - a modern take on vegetarian Gujarati cuisine - is superb. It’s a lovely space, despite the unpromising street-scene outside: on the walls are old Bollywood posters, sourced by co-owner Marko Husak, artwork by Drew Millward and some beautiful white tiling that was uncovered in the restoration. Everything about this place screams care and quality.
Where do you start with Common? This place has been the beating heart of the Northern Quarter for years, serving up tasty and imaginative food (try the popcorn cockles, a deep-fried vinegary treat) and excellent drinks for more than a decade. Beer is only really part of the attraction here but it’s far from an afterthought - expect to find Magic Rock, Cloudwater, The Kernel and others of a similar quality. Common also does breakfast, a great brunch, and stays open until the wee hours. You could spend all day and night here.
For a pub to be a true classic, it needs quality tiling. There are very few pubs in the UK that are better tiled than this place, which sits in splendid isolation on a rather bleak stretch of the Rochdale Road. (A personal favourite are the mosaic Lancashire red-roses on the floor). The Marble Brewery, which is based in a railway arch just a few minutes away, provides much of the beer and it’s good stuff: Pint, a classic sessionable pale ale, is a fair representation of the house style. The food is also excellent, with the ‘Tomapork’ - a huge pork chop - being the pick of the menu.
This beautiful pub might not have the most exciting variety of beers in the city (to be clear: it definitely doesn’t) but it does have that other crucial pub component, atmosphere. Like the Marble Arch, it’s got magnificent tiles - green ones, on the outside - and it sits all alone on a traffic island, shorn of the terraced housing that presumably once surrounded it. The Pev, as it’s known, does have cask ale - Timothy Taylor Landlord, for example - which is generally in good nick. A visit to the Pev is best combined with a trip to the nearby, equally magnificent Briton’s Protection.
Manchester now has plenty of places to indulge a passion for exotic and esoteric beers, but Port Street Beer House was there first. Run by the same people as Common, it’s a much more beer-focused sort of place. The beer list is admirably varied, taking in English classics from Fuller’s, German lagers, big Belgian names like Boon and Rochefort and more modern craft beer than you can shake a grapefruit at.
The article is contributed by Will Hawkes. He is a freelance journalist specialising in beer and travel. He is an author of Craft Beer London, a guide to the city's burgeoning beer culture and a regular contributor to a host of publications including The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post and Beer Advocate.