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Manchester Beers Round-up

Neil Sowerby drowns in ale for his job and finds the smooth, the rough and the delightful

Published on November 23rd 2011.


Manchester Beers Round-up

MY colleague Schofield set some cunning questions for the Manchester Food and Drink Festival Pub Quiz In A Tent, one of which was: Which Manchester city centre pub has the same name as a London Tube station? 

The latest I’ve tasted, Faithless VII is a wheat beer taking aromatic infusion that one step further with a cocktail of lemongrass, coriander, galangal, tamarind and kaffir lime leaves in there. It is stunningly complex
 
The answer, as an unplanned explosion was about to occur outside, was the Marble Arch. (NB: If it had been Greater Manchester, the Elephant and Castle in Bamford might have counted and the jury’s out whether Bank on Mosley Street is pub or bar).
 
Imagine the irony then when the Marble cropped up in full colour in the newly published Oxford Companion to Beer (highly recommended, OUP, £25) as one of six pubs featuring in a montage of LONDON pubs. 

Marble_Arch_In_London![1]Marble Arch In London

 
The only excuse for this howler in this compendium of all things hoppy and malty is its generally American slant. The editor is Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, so perhaps his sub-editors were toiling across the Pond, too, and thought 'Marble Arch? Old London Town'.
 
The Marble Brewery, though, has established a London link. Fullers brewers made it up from Chiswick on the Pendolino to co-brew an ale there recently. I never got to try the cask version of Old Manchester Ale (only three barrels were brewed, two of which went to Huddersfield and Holland), but in the bottle it proved stunning, an old ale style with the merest hint of sweetness but rich, heavy and warming. It’s 7.2 per cent beer, so you’re paying over £8 a bottle mind you. 
 
The last time I looked there were still some bottles on the shelves at the Marble Arch pub up Rochdale Road. Great Christmas prezzie. One to tackle the Stilton? There’s also an 8.2 per cent Marble Dunkel in a bottle, still to be tasted. Another great nightcap perhaps.
 
I’ve never had a bad pint at the Marble – from their own range  or guests – and never expected to at the Port Street Beer House, a fanatical Northern Quarter operation where beer is treated with (pricey) reverence.

Marble 

So it was a surprise when a Quantum Williamette IPA (5.5per cent, £3.40) from a spanking new Stockport brewery proved undrinkable. I’ve enjoyed Quantum’s 4 per cent Robust Porter  at Port Street and the Gaslamp. Brewed with seven different malts and English hops, it has a suprising amount of bitterness and a long chocolate finish.
 
But the Williamette. The heavy hoppiness was expected, but after initial pleasure gave way to an odd muskiness. I left most of it and here’s the rub. In an old-fashioned cask ale boozer I would have taken it back, but because of the shrinelike nature of the joint I feared being told: “It’s meant to taste like that. Isn’t it distinctive?” 
 
So I left ... and headed for the Brunswick off Piccadilly. Why? Because I had never been there and it appeared the antithesis of Port Street. No chance of finding boys with tight beards and thick-rimmed specs logging new hop varieties on their Androids. Just a scuffed, timewarped Seventies pub. 
 
At least in that decade my beloved Timothy Taylor’s kept to its own windswept corner of West Yorkshire. Nowadays Landlord is a universal across the nation’s handpumps – and often loses something in its travels. I ordered a half in the Brunswick and found none of the mix of citrussy hop and biscuity malt I expect and still often find on its own territory. Just bland like, say, the universal  Black Sheep usually is. But that’s another story – a triumph of a good story and terrific branding over taste.
 
All a bit negative, so let’s salute the best new(ish) brewery in Confidential land. RedWillow in Macclesfield has won Champion Beer of Cheshire  for its Wreckless and supplies the Mark Addy with its house beer Faithless.
 
But following the direction that 'less is more I’d recommend keeping an eye out for their experimental range called Faithless. The latest I’ve tasted, Faithless VII is a wheat beer taking aromatic infusion that one step further with a cocktail of lemongrass, coriander, galangal, tamarind and kaffir lime leaves in there. It is stunningly complex and worth seeking out. Your standard Hoegaarden tastes like washing-up slops in comparison. 
 
“There’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever Belgium,” seems to sum up Altrincham beerwise. Belgian bar Le Trappiste started it in Greenwood Street, followed by Mort Subite. There are changes now afoot at both.
 
The Le Trappiste, which relocated to nearby Shaw’s Wood Road, has now reinvented itself as The Brewhouse bar, selling craft beers from across the planet. A peek into their website reveals the usual suspects, but what suspects!
 
“The geat new range of beers will include Brew Dog, RedWillow and Marble from the UK, De Molen from Holland, Struise, Vivien and St Feuillen from Belgium. The USA is represented by Odell, Flying Dog, Victory and Maui from Hawaii.” The bar will also run a series of “meet the brewer” nights.
 
Mort Subite, meanwhile, has opened an offshoot called Bier Cell at 34b Greenwood Street. Like the Mort basement bar this shop is decked out in art nouveau chic and promises 'European beery exotica' and a huge range of rare and lovely brews. Check out its website.
 
More conventional is a new specialist shop cum bar called The Beer Shop at 13 Kingsleigh Road, Heaton Moor run by Dean Hilton. Draught and bottled beers will be available to consume on and off the premises - click here for a view.

Stalybridge 

Finally, in this brave new world of cask ale and craft beers taking centre stage, it’s good to remember one of the great real ale stalwarts and his still vibrant legacy. John Hesketh, who has died, rejuvenated the ailing Station pub in Stalybridge and then went on to rescue the town’s iconic Station Buffet Bar in the 90s when it was in danger of demolition. 
 
Today it is still one of the great places to drink cask beer (and eat black peas, if you are that way inclined). The tally of new beers on a board behind the bar, inevitably from microbreweries, summed up the whole enterprise. The figure of 7,785 in 15 years is now to be fixed in tribute to John.
 
The Brewhouse, Bier Cell and Beer Shop information was culled from CAMRA’s excellent regional monthly mag, Opening Times. Worth joining the Campaign just for that. 

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9 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Hero
RevaulxNovember 24th 2011.

Angel? Temple? Royal Oak? The Bank's neither of the things you suggest; it's just a dump.

Man in a ShedNovember 24th 2011.

Oh dear. Turns out Schofield may not be as cunning as Mr Sowerby professes.

Also, Bamford is in Derbyshire, not Greater Manchester......

1 Response: Reply To This...
JoanNovember 26th 2011.

There's a Bamford in Rochdale, with a pub called the Elephand and Castle.

JimmyNovember 24th 2011.

To be fair, the Temple is a bar, there is no Royal Oak in the city centre. Angel was missed though.

AnonymousNovember 25th 2011.

Hi Neil,
Jonny from Port Street here, apologies if you didn't enjoy your beer, Willamette is a very distinctive hop, not to everyones taste. You will always be offered a taster of any cask or keg beer before buying to help inform your choice and avoid you getting a pint you don't enjoy. We want to ensure that people enjoy ever beer they have with us, that's why we offer tasters, as many of the beers have big, bold flavours. The beer is well kept and turned over fast to ensure quality of serve, so if after that you don't like the beer then tell a member of staff and it will be exchanged.

AnonymousNovember 25th 2011.

I completely understand where you're coming from regarding your apprehension at complaining at PSBH.

I stopped in as they had one of my favourite beers, unfined, on cask. I was disappointed to receive something that looked and tasted nothing like the beer I know and love. It was as if the cask had been left 2 weeks to drop clear. It was bland and lifeless (and crystal clear), the complete opposite to how it usually is.

I mentioned this to the chap behind the bar who looked at me with that special NQ "Awww, he doesn't appreciate it" face. Now I'm no expert on beer, but I'd like to think that I have a good idea what the beer from my local brewery tastes like. However it is annoying to have your opinion cast aside because you're jeans aren't of the required tightness.

I'm still a frequent visitor, with a few ruffled feathers, but I do now wonder if a small number of staff aren't as knowledgeable as the rest when it comes to some of the beers they sell.

AnonymousNovember 25th 2011.

a

AnonymousNovember 30th 2011.

I drink in PSBH quite a lot, and I have had the Wilamette in question. Yes, very hoppy, yes ends in a musty taste. And yes, it's meant to be that way. It's a shame to judge a pub by one beer though as that place is very good.
I don't see it as pricey either, around the £3.60 mark for a pint of decent beer there compared to over £4 for a pint of crap lager elsewhere in the city? And even over the course of a night the extra 20 or 40 pence per pint with some other pubs doesn't add up to more than I'll happily pay to know I'm drinking decent beer in a decent pub.

AnonymousJanuary 18th 2012.

never enjoyed reading sowerbys pretentious reviews in the evening news

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Agreed, a right dump

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