Beer festival organisers in Manchester promised this year’s would be bigger and better. And the beer lists released today promise a staggering 750 different drinks!
Now the biggest event of its kind in the North, the Manchester Beer and Cider festival is organised by the combined expertise of the nine Greater Manchester CAMRA branches. The annual event serves the lover of traditional British ales, fans of the cutting edge of modern brewing and the uninitiated who are ready to start their journey of discovery.
Over the last few months, the festival’s specialists in real ale, foreign beers and and ciders have assembled a programme which has something for every taste. But the target for most festival goers are the cask-conditioned bars.
Here, over 400 real ales – ranging from Britain’s oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame to one of the newest, Manchester’s own Origami – show the variety of this uniquely British natural product. And retaining its reputation for innovation, the festival also has a superb range of key-keg conditioned beers.
With such an extensive selection, visitors may be forgiven for not knowing where to start. The festival programme gives tasting notes to help the unsure, but recommendations will be available at each of the 20 bars.
The difficult (but we suspect rewarding) job of selecting the British beers fell to the festival’s John O’Donnell. John said: “The incredible growth of the brewing industry in the last decade means there are well over 1400 breweries. Despite my best efforts, I can’t keep up with every one!”
“We are lucky to have over 75 breweries in Greater Manchester alone. I wanted to ensure our many visitors from further afield experienced some of the best local brews, but also introduce local drinkers to some great beers from the rest of the country.”
“We’ve famous ales not often seen in Manchester, old favourites, rarities, special collaboration beers made specially for us and even a new brand launching at the festival.”
With so many beers, who better than the beer orderer to suggest which ales he’s keen to try? John reveals six he is most looking forward to.
Mallinsons & Pictish: Transpennine Pale Ale 6% ABV
Top of the list is this collaboration, simply because it’s taken two years to persuade these amazing brewers to team up. For 16 years, Rochdale’s Pictish have been at the pinnacle of Manchester’s brewing scene, producing pale hop forward ales long before others caught on to the style. Huddersfield’s Mallinson’s openly admit to having been inspired by Pictish’s beers but have become mistresses of the style in their own right.
So what do they produce when you get them together? A dark brown hoppy ale. I’m intrigued. And can’t wait.
Two By Two: Coffee Stout 5% ABV
Newcastle’s Two By Two brewery has been my top new find this year, thanks to a chance visit to the Bodega pub in its home town. I tried three of its beers that evening, all excellent, but it was the Coffee Stout which stood out – smooth, balanced and flavoursome. I’m delighted to bring it and two other examples from this new brewery to Manchester for the first time.
Harvey’s: Sussex Best Bitter 4% ABV
Quite simply a classic best bitter, one of the finest of the style – but an absolute rarity in the North. Thanks to Harvey’s presence on the Independent Family Brewers of Britain bar, we have four beers from Lewe’s historic family brewery. As well as their superbly balanced but delicately hopped Bitter, we also have casks of Prince Of Denmark imperial stout – a one to head for if the weather outside dictates you need a warm glow inside.
Stubborn Mule: Absolute Banker 4.7% ABV
Stubborn Mule have been around for a couple of years brewing on a tiny ‘nano’ brewery in a Timperley shed, but their beers have impressed – mostly in bottles, but more so on their rare appearances in cask and key-keg form. In December, the brewery finally commissioned its full size brewery. The first three brews off the kit are at the festival. Absolute Banker is a pale citrus-flavoured beer produced for us – it’s an improved version of an earlier beer called Hello Polly which was pretty damned fine, so I’m looking forward to the new version.
Stringers: Mutiny 9.3% ABV
It was great to see the judges for Champion Bottled Beer Of Britain recognise a beer I have loved for years in Stringers Mutiny – a strong stout with real depth and complexity. Sadly, it’s no longer available in cask from the Ulverston brewer. Despite massive demand since their award, I’m very pleased Stringers managed to make some bottles available for our bottle bar at #MBCF17.
JW Lees: Harvest Ale 11.5% ABV
Harvest Ale is quite simply a legendary bottled ale, with vintage bottles often changing hands for three figure sums. Produced once a year to celebrate the new harvest, the vast majority of the bottles produced are exported to the USA, meaning finding it in bottles in Britain can be a challenge. To experience it cask-conditioned could simply be a once in a lifetime experience.
If visitors are still looking for guidance, there’s also the opportunity to sample and learn about some of the Belgian, Dutch and British beers and ciders at the festival with tutored tastings each day.
Manchester Beer and Cider Festival runs from Thursday 19th to Saturday 21st January 2017. Tickets are available from www.mancbeerfest.uk
press (at) mancbeerfest.uk
Notes to editors:
1. The Manchester Beer & Cider Festival is organised by the Greater Manchester branches of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).
2. The festival will be open to the public on Thursday 19th, Friday 20th and Saturday 21st January 2017. Detailed opening times; Thursday 12pm – 10.30pm; Friday 12pm – 10.30pm; Saturday 12pm – 7pm.
Advance tickets are on sale via www.mancbeerfest.uk, Eventbrite.co.uk and Facebook. com/manchesterbeerfestival.
4. Full details of all beers and ciders are at https://mancbeerfest.uk/beers-ciders/
The bars at the festival are:
three huge bars serving the best of British cask beer (259)
a cider and perry bar, mead and country wines (105)
13 branded brewery bars, dedicated to serving their own beers (93)
a Key-keg bar serving modern beers in a different format (37)
two Bière Sans Frontières bars, one for German/Belgian/Czech beers, and another for Rest of the World (92)
a bottle bar featuring UK and overseas beers in bottle (106)
new for 2017, an Independent Family Brewers bar (68)
(figures in brackets are numbers of beers/ciders etc)
6. ABV = Alcohol by volume, a measure of a drink’s strength.
There will be a trade/CAMRA members only preview evening between 5pm and 9pm on Wednesday 18th January. This will incorporate a press reception. Media organisations can be added to the invitation list by contacting email@example.com
Follow us for all the latest news: Facebook. com/manchesterbeerfestival and @MancBeerFest.