Nineteen to 2019


The end of the traditional summer holidays sees a step up in activity for organisers of the North’s biggest celebration of traditional and modern beers and ciders.

Planning for the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival starts with a review of the previous year’s event in March. But as the lighter nights fade, many contracts are secured and valued sponsors signed up. Dedicated beer orderers (tough work but someone has to do it) have spent the last few months researching new beers and checking the availability of old favourites.

Organised by the Greater Manchester branches of the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA), the 2018 festival featured over 750 different beers and ciders. There was an amazing 14% increase in attendance to 15,478; and those drinkers obliged by downing almost 65,000 pints.

The festival promises the return of firm favourites alongside debuts from exciting new breweries. Almost all of the dozen brewery bars are now signed up for January. Last year’s introduction of the Little Ireland bar was a winner with all the specially imported beers sold out, so an extended range is planned.

The foreign beer bars are always popular, with curated beers from the ‘big three’ European brewing countries of Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic to the fore. And Manchester’s reputation of providing the biggest cider and perry selection in the North will again be fiercely defended.

The festival has created a name for itself by embracing new beer styles and methods of dispense. Although the commitment to traditional cask beers will always dominate, more modern beers have drawn in younger drinkers and helped swell attendances.

Plans are also well advanced to enhance festival-goers’ experience with a series of tutored tastings run by acknowledged beer experts. As well as a CAMRA membership stand, there will be stalls selling beer memorabilia, books and a selection of traditional pub games to enjoy.

Organiser Adrian Saunders said “We’ve always prided ourselves in being big enough to offer a fantastic choice, but small enough to understand individual customer feedback. We believe this marks Manchester out as an unmissable beer experience, and explains why we have grown in popularity when other festivals are seeing numbers down.

“Manchester Central is a great home for the festival with vast numbers of seats and plenty of space to move around and meet friends. Despite this availability of seats, we recognise queues do build up outside before our doors open. So we’ve looking afresh at speeding up our entry procedures. We can’t rely on kind weather in January.”

The festival has held entry prices, and opens to the public for three days from Thursday 24th January. CAMRA members get the perk of a free-to-enter preview evening. The single entry price each day includes the refundable glass hire, and tickets are on sale via the festival website.

Like all those who put on this huge festival, Adrian is a volunteer. He has a special message for the 9,400 CAMRA members across Greater Manchester. “We’re grateful for all those who lend their time and skill to make this festival so enjoyable, but we need around 330 to assist. We benefit from volunteers who travel from farther afield, but we’d like to increase the number of local members who assist. If you’ve not volunteered before, why not make 2019 the year you offer to help? We can promise fun, friendships, a sense of achievement – and a few beers!”