Sunday 20 October 2013

BrewDog Manchester

The Jortening. Identity blurred
to protect the innocent.
I made a welcome return to Manchester recently. I've previously covered some of the cities fine pubs in a previous post, and this visit added two new establishments. My reason for being in the strange world of the north was a good old fashioned stag night. We eschewed the traditional events of handcuffing the groom to a lamppost or spraying the back of a minicab in vomit and instead plied the groom full of booze, cutting off a piece of his jeans every time he had a drink so by the end of the evening he ended up with a fine pair of denim shorts, or "jorts" to use the modern parlance. This went down a storm with Manchester's finest lasses, and even with a bit of boxers peeking out of the jorts it didn't scare them off from catcalling and leering. They're made of stouter stuff up there.

The majority of the stag night was spent in two of the "finest" clubs Manchester has to offer, the gloriously kitsch Fab Cafe and the terrifying rock club Satan's Hollow. However we did manage to visit a couple of pubs and both of them were (spoilers) excellent. First up was BrewDog Manchester. BrewDog continue to spread across the country like a virus made out of hops and cocky attitude. This is the third outlet I have visited, the previous being Camden and Shoreditch. The Manchester branch was a great experience. Compared to Camden and Shoreditch this place was huge, spread over two levels. I was surprised at how quiet the place was considering how rammed the London outlets always seem to be. Granted it was about 3pm on a Saturday afternoon but I expected more folks there. I must admit I got a little overexcited when I saw two pinball machines, both of which were working well but considering how poorly I did on them I can only presume they were set on "insane" difficulty.

To celebrate the groom signing his life away a tasting session of six beers was presented to us and it didn't disappoint. First up was the Nut Brown Ale by the Ale Smith brewing company, from the good ol' USA. American beers were going to feature strongly in this tasting session, and with good reason, as they are producing some excellent beers over there at the moment. This first ale was proof that Americans can capably produce beer other than intensely hopped pale ales. The first thing to hit was the fabulous aroma, a rich bitter smell with the faintest hint of nuts, inviting you to take a sip. The taste was also excellent, the nut flavours subtly pronounced in the comforting bitter taste. A great start. Next up was Black Racer from Bear Republic. This was a solid Black IPA. I don't really know what a Black IPA is, it appears to mean it's going to have a burnt, malty flavour and this beer hit the right notes. Good stuff.

Imperial IPA from Green Flash was excellent and the highlight of the tasting session. I was a bit worried that at 9.4% this was going to be an unsubtle assault of hops and booze, with the harsh finish that these types of beer can suffer from. Amazingly it was the complete opposite. Despite the high strength the beer went down as smooth as chocolate mousse covered in Vaseline and was a hoppy delight. A really fine example of what skilled brewing can produce. Anniversary Ale from the Port Brewing Company was up next and managed to make all the mistakes the Imperial IPA skillfully avoided. A classic example of chuck in the hops and booze and let's see what happens, it was harsh, tasted strongly of alcohol with no subtlety to back it up, and was just not very pleasurable to drink. It might have been passable if it hadn't come after the Imperial IPA but unfortunately it just highlighted what a disappointment this beer was.

Next up was the lowlight of the session, but others may enjoy it. It's Lambic time! My tongue tried to escape from my mouth at the very thought of having to sip this sour, fruity disaster. My idiot brain started to try and comfort me - maybe it'll be good this time! Perhaps the fruity sourness won't want to make you end it all right there and then! One sip and I immediately wanted to fire my brain. Made by Brasserie Cantillon it was pure lambic through and through. I hated it. Luckily it didn't destroy my taste buds for the final beer of the session, the Stone Brewery Espresso Imperial Russian Stout. This eliminated all memories of the horrific lambic and ended the session on a high. This full bodied classic stout was spot on. As a regular stout this would be a terrific treat, but with the coffee added it was absolutely brilliant.

As you've read this far into the post I may as well tell you why I thought BrewDog Manchester was both better and worse than their Camden outlet, which is the branch I've frequented most. The extra space was definitely a plus over the tiny Camden branch, which gets packed full of punters early and it's practically impossible to get a seat after 6pm. As the Manchester one is twice the size it never felt very busy there, even as the evening drew on. The downside to this extra space is that the atmosphere didn't seem as good, the closeness of the Camden space encouraging punters to mix up a little and get the conversation going. Everyone just stuck to their own groups in the Manchester branch, which is unusual in a Northern bar as every man and their dog usually tries to strike up a conversation with you as all the Southerners desperately try to avoid eye contact and drink their beer as quickly as possible.

Well this post went on longer than I expected. Best save my biting commentary on the Port Street Beer House for next week. I've also gone and got myself a "Twitter," why not follow me @bitterbloke. Cheers!


  1. Trouble with BrewDog Manchester is that it's in the wrong place to get the crowds. The original site was to be just down the road from the excellent Port Street Beer House but they couldn't get a license.

  2. Oh yes - and Cantillon is wonderful but you do have to work at it.

  3. Yes it struck me as a odd location - there's no real compelling reason to walk down that part of Manchester and it seems a bit stranded there. It makes sense that they were originally going for the Northern Quarter - would have been a much better location.

    I don't know if I'll ever get my tongue to accept the joy of lambic!