A history of the North’s largest beer celebration
Manchester Beer & Cider Festival (MBCF) began in January 2014 following the completion of the nine-year long residency of CAMRA’s National Winter Ales Festival (NWAF) in our city.
The new festival set out to continue to offer the great range of cask ales that NWAF had become known for , but also to offer a wider range of beers from the UK and beyond in a new and modern setting.
The new festival’s first home was the Velodrome at the National Cycling Centre with all the bars set up inside the iconic banked cycle track. The new event was an immediate hit, attracting three thousand more customers than had been expected and, regrettably, running out of beer.
In 2015, the festival expanded with additional bars located on the concourse around the track, with around 12,000 customers attending over the festivals four days. Unfortunately, 2015 was to be the events’ last at the Velodrome as British Cycling decided that they no longer wished the Velodrome to host the event.
Since 2016, the festival has been held in the heart of the city at Manchester Central – the former railway station turned conference and event centre. The venue has allowed the event to expand to welcome up to 15,000 customers and continue its mission to offer visitors new experiences.
Innovations over the past five years have included a partnership with Barcelona Beer Festival (BBF) which saw Spanish brewers attend the festival to serve on the BBF bar and five of our local brewers travel to the Catalan capital to serve on the MBCF bar at Spains largest beer event.
2016 saw the festival introduce a bar dedicated to the finest UK beers in keg and KeyKeg format to complement the range of traditional and modern cask ales.
In 2018, the festival introduced the Little Ireland bar dedicated to cask and keg beers from Ireland – including brewers from both sides of the border. This bar returned in 2019 with leading Irish brewer The White Hag inviting some of their friends.
2018 saw a first for a CAMRA festival when MBCF welcomed our friends from Barcelona Beer Festival to host their own bar at the festival. The BBF team were accompanied by brewers from Garage Brew Co, Dougall’s, Bidassoa Basque Brewery, Cervesa Lo Vilot and Black Lab brewery. Two months later, MBCF took five Manchester’s breweries (Runaway, Track, Blackjack, RedWillow and Marble) to pour on our bar at the Catalonian event.
While championing modern styles and breweries, the festival also celebrates the best of traditional British brewing and in 2017 invited the Independent Family Brewers of Britain to host their own bar. The following year, The Hundred Club bar championed brewers who had over 100 years of brewing experience behind them.
2019 saw the first Beers From The Wood bar, in partnership with The Society For The Preservation of Beers From The Wood, featuring 40 beers from a range of breweries served from traditional wooden casks. The bar was so popular that for 2020 it doubled in size but still sold out every single drop.
Also new for 2020 was the Coast to Coast bar – a 60m long journey from the Merseyside to the Humber through the breweries of Merseyside, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Yorkshire.
Sadly, Manchester Central’s conversion to a Nightingale Hospital in mid 2020 meant the 2021 festival was in doubt even before ongoing restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to host a physical festival.