Get beer done!

Incredible inventory from Manchester Beer and Cider Festival 

Drinkers are promised a celebration of our national drinks as the North’s biggest beer and cider festival rolls into Manchester Central next week. And to tease tastebuds, organisers have announced their beer lists packed with the most extensive selection of real ales, modern keg and the best from the international scene.

Now in its seventh year, Manchester Beer and Cider festival has an outstanding menu of the best brewers and producers can muster. This year, 25 bars will serve more than 750 different examples sure to appeal to lovers of traditional British ales, those seeking the cutting edge of modern brewing and fans of foreign beer styles. With ciders, perrys, fruit wines, mead and a gin bar, there’s sure to be a drink for every taste.

As you would expect from an event organised by the nine Greater Manchester branches of the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA), the focus is on cask-conditioned beers with almost 400 to choose from.

©James Darcey

New for 2020 is the enormous Coast to Coast bar, showcasing some of the best breweries from the Mersey to the Humber. Visitors can travel through seven counties, sampling beers without ever getting wet. Expect a great deal of interest from photographers as 156 hand pumps plus 15 on the cider bar line up to make an unforgettable souvenir image. Highlights include a white stout from Liverpool’s Gibberish, Walnut Whip and Vimto beers and several collaborations between brewers. Sure to catch the eye is Pomona Island and Elusive’s ‘It’s Dangerous To Go Alone, Take This With You’ (6.8%), which promises pink peppercorns and coriander seeds – as well as probably the longest name in the festival.  The vibrant brewing scene across Greater Manchester means 22 breweries are represented but West Yorkshire isn’t far behind with 19.

©James Darcey

The Beers from the Wood bar was a runaway success in 2019, so has been enlarged to feature more than 70 beers, many making their debut in wooden barrels. Beer orderer John O’Donnell  has persuaded some breweries to use barrels for the first time, and cajoled others to supply favorites in the style.

We asked John for a few pointers to look out for. He said “There’s a three-year aged unique beer in wood from Marble brewers that I’m delighted to put on. Across town, Beer Nouveau has supplied two heritage beers the brewery has resurrected, as well as an interesting ‘Chocolate Orange Surplus’ (8%), using surplus food, all in wood. Elsewhere, the Coast To Coast bar has two small batch beers from Moorhouses and Bad Seed of North Yorkshire’s ‘Juice Bar’ (5.3%) promises to be very fruity. Bradfield’s Farmer’s Belgian Blue (4.9%) is bound to appeal to the curious as it has a slight blue tint to the head.       

“And I don’t need to recommend a visit to Tiny Rebel’s bar – drinkers clearly know their way!”

The Kegstar bar will showcase modern keykeg and keg beers from both the UK and overseas.

©James Darcey

Although typically served colder and with higher carbonation than cask beers, unlike the keg beers of the 1970s modern keg beers retain and celebrate the same flavours that makes cask ale so tasty. More than 70 beers will be served, representing some of the most modern and innovative beer styles. Festival favorites Cloudwater and Kernel both have two beers available, and Manchester Union’s ‘Lager ‘ (4.8%) will provide the answer to a commonly-asked question at all festivals. Stubborm Mule’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Cocoa’ (3.3%) and Vocation’s Purple Grain (6.2%) are both sure to be chart hits.

Brass Castle brewers ©James Darcey

The choice doesn’t stop there. Eleven brewery bars will offer visitors a choice of cask and keg beers often served by the brewers themselves. There’s a new big name – Roosters of Harrogate – and the return of favourites Tiny Rebel, Brass Castle, and Bollington. Brass Castle’s ‘Fruit Lupe’ will be available in both cask and keg, giving drinkers the chance to spot any difference. Confirmed keg specialist Runaway has put one of its beers, ‘Farmhouse Pale’ (3.9%) in a wooden barrel and sent it to the Beers from the Wood bar. RedWillow returns after a gap and weighs in with ‘Imperial XXX Mild’, a 9.2% special alongside some of its familiar favourites.

And another new feature will be the microbars, giving drinkers the chance to sample ales and talk to the brewers in attendance. Local representatives include Brewsmith, Donkeystone and Joseph Holt, who marks the festival with a new beer, ‘Fiesta Express’ (4.9%).

If you’re looking to take it easy, the beer selection starts with a bottled alcohol-free Budvar, and a 2.5% ‘Grapefruit Radler’ from Welsh wizards Tiny Rebel. At the opposite end of the draught offerings are 10% and over strong beers from Brass Castle, Marble and Maghull’s Neptune. Marble’s collaboration with Aberdeen brewers Fierce is the strongest draught beer with ‘Chocolate and Hazelnut Imperial Stout’ (12.2%). But it’s closely followed by Sweden’s Beerbliotek brewery with a 12.1% barley wine, confusingly called ‘Wood I Lie To You’. Find it on the Bieres Sans Frontieres bar.

Two further bars of international beers will bring a superb range of beers in draught, bottle and can from Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Japan, the USA  and more.

Manchester Beer and Cider Festival runs from Thursday 23rd to Saturday 25th January 2020 at Manchester Central. Tickets for entry and the special tasting events are on sale at the festival’s website,