Manchester Beer and Cider Festival 2017 – My Dancecard 

I’m lucky sometimes. One of these occasions was when I recently had a preview 0f the beer list for the upcoming Manchester Beer & Cider Festival.

Leaving aside the established family breweries from the region (although a rare draught outing for JW Lees Harvest Ale is quite exciting), there is an extremely large selection of beers on both cask and (whisper it) keg, with some exceptional beers in there from all over the country.

I received a sneak preview of the list to facilitate a piece for the local paper the Manchester Evening News which was published yesterday. However, that piece was edited, with the two lowest abv beers edited out, hence a slight revamp here. I call it my Dance Card; beers that I will make a point of seeking out.

For me – with limited exceptions – I indulge in what I refer to as “tactical drinking”, starting with low abv beers and heading North from there. Given that I will be one of the judges for the (glory be!) Stout category, I won’t be getting through all of these at the “Trade” session. But get through them I will. (With maybe a warming Imperial Stout or two to keep out the forecasted chill)

Anyway, here goes my take on the beers to try. And for those who want to hunt their own choices down, here’s the link to the full list.

A wise Manchester blogger once told me “Manchester is a Pale Ale city”, so the accent is on the light, pale and bitter of the spectrum. With some darkness for a little fortifying variety in this cold month.

Happy hunting!

Dinner AleIlkley Brewery (Bar 1) : At only 3.3%, this sharp and zesty light Pale Ale is full of juicy flavours. An ideal beer to start the session with. And my favourite beer from the Leeds International Beer Fest 3 years ago. I haven’t seen it since.

TitchRamsbottom Craft Brewery (Bar 2) : One of my favourite beers of 2016. At only 3.6% this tart fruity Pale Ale is a delicious juicy mouthful from one of the best small breweries in the area. Full bodied too for the strength.

Galaxy Pale AleBrewsmith Brewery (Brewery Bars) : James Smith has been brewing the most consistently excellent beers for the last 3 years. His single hopped Pale Ales being singularly delicious and refreshing, this 3.9% Aussie hopped beer promises to be more of the same.

Dr. RudiPictish Brewery (Bar 2) : In my opinion, up at this Rochdale brewery, Paul Wesley is a master of brewing single-hopped Pale Ales. Expect juicy, fruity and bitter from this 4.1% beer. And superb.

US Cask LagerBrightside Brewery (Brewery Bars) : Cask conditioned Lagers are a comparative rarity. This 4.3% beer promises to be light and refreshing but with a little hoppy kick from Columbus and Citra hops.

Pale (Chinook/Junga) – Squawk Brewing (Bar 2) : My brewery of the year in 2016, Oliver Turton turns out some of the finest clean and crisp Pale Ales and IPAs in the country from his Ardwick railway arch. An absolute go to brewery whenever seen on a bar for me. Expect refreshing and sharp from this 4.3% beer.

Hoptical IllusionBrass Castle Brewery (Brewery Bars) : A Gluten Free beer made with the sorghum grain, packed with juicy fruit for a hoppy punch. Excellent in bottle, I simply can’t wait to sample this 4.3% belter, from this standout Yorkshire brewery, based in Malton.

Dry Irish StoutRunaway Brewery (Brewery Bars) : Mark Welsby has been quietly beavering away over the last 3 years near Victoria Station brewing some of Manchester’s finest beers. This 4.5% Stout is one of the few I’m yet to try. Expect big roasted flavours with a bitter and slightly sweet finish. I (personally) will not miss this!

Cherry HeartlessRedwillow Brewery (Bar 2) : On its own, Heartless Stout is a full-bodied and luxurious Choccy Stout, dark and delicious. Cherries just work so well in a dark beer that this 4.9% combination has me drooling. Think of Black Forest Gateau. Catnip for beer and cake lovers both.

Turbine PorterStringers Brewery (Bar 3) : Another Gluten Free beer, Stringers are a superb brewery based in Ulverston and I simply don’t see their beer enough in Manchester, with their IPA and Dry Stout being superb. Expect roasted flavours and slight coffee notes in this warming 5.1% Porter.

Quantum Thirst ZapperThirst Class Ale / Quantum Brewing (Bar 3) : Stepping up the strength here at 5.9%, I simply couldn’t overlook this Amber Ale. Combining the brewing skills of Richard Conway (of the criminally underrated Thirst Class – co brewers of my favourite beer of 2016) with the maverick that is Jay Krause (of the sadly closed Quantum), this Stockport collaboration beer promises big and bold hoppy flavours. Unmissable for me.

Transpennine Brown AleMallinsons Brewery / Pictish Brewery : Now to the beer that is top of my personal “to do” list. Brewed especially for the festival, this collaboration between two of my very favourite breweries had me salivating from the moment I heard. Hoppy Brown ales are a particular favourite of mine, but when made by the two breweries that master the art of drinkable hoppy pale ales.(for me), this is a must. Especially as they went against type, deliberately! Expect fruity hops galore, with a little nutty sweetness in this crackerjack 6% beer.