Sunday 3 November 2013

Port Street Beer House, Manchester

Ah the Northern Quarter of Manchester. An area that seems to have been "up and coming" since Manchester existed. It's a weird jumble of trendy cafes and bars mixed with derelict buildings and depressing car parks, where some chancer has stuck a sign into his patch of gravel saying "Parking £5" and hoping some chump will go for it. It makes me think of what Camden Town must have been like before all the London wankers moved in and completely destroyed any character the area once had.

Opposite one of the chancer car parks is a little bar called the Port Street Beer House. I'd heard good things about this place, and as it was derby day in town I thought this would be a good place to avoid the football crowds. We got there at opening, feeling a little worse for wear following the stag night celebrations the night before. Still a little hangover wasn't going to stop us from enjoying some tasty ales. To be honest if I didn't know about this place I would of walked past it without a second thought. I didn't think it looked much like a pub from the outside, with the plasticky tables and chairs and bright lighting making the place look more like a cafe. We were even a little confused about which door to use to actually get into the place - although this might have been because of our hungover state.

As we walked in the first thing to hit us was a tremendous smell of bleach. Granted we were there at opening on a Sunday but they could have deep cleaned the place a little earlier. There's nothing welcoming about getting a face full of chlorine when walking into a bar. The smell was so bad that my eyes were nearly watering, and we had to retreat from the ground floor bar to upstairs, which features an odd mixture of cosy pub booths and more of the cafe style tables and chairs.

As promised in reviews of this place, the beer selection was good and in excellent condition. The staff knew their stuff, and they had a long chat with one of my friends about beer, although the atmosphere did sour a little bit when he mentioned that he works at BrewDog. Apparently this is not always a popular thing to say at craft beer bars! There was a great selection of bottled beers available but I stuck to the cask ale. First up was You Love Us from Hopcraft Brewing. Despite the arrogance of the name this was actually pretty good, bursting with hoppy goodness. Jacobs Ladder from Buxton Brewery was another winner, a low strength session ale bursting with flavour. There's nothing better than a beer with plenty of taste and not getting pissed after two pints, like every American IPA ever. Last up was Three Swords from the Kirkstall Brewery, which was a very solid bitter but was certainly the most "traditional" of the beers I tried, which made it a little boring.

Overall our group had a good time at the Beer House, despite all nursing hangovers. However I wonder how much business this place gets from the casual customer. It's not particularly welcoming from the outside, especially as it doesn't even really look a pub. Even if I had gone in as a casual customer I probably would have immediately walked out after being hit with a face full of bleach. Of course the bleach smell may be an unfortunate one off but you've got to have consistent quality in the pub business. The craft ale pub scene is exciting but ultimately these places are pubs, and you've got to be on the ball every time to attract customers. I doubt the craft ale scene is immune to market forces, no matter how unstoppable it seems at the moment.

Next week is a look around some very good pubs in the "quaint" city of Chester. Hope you can join me then. Cheers!


  1. It varies from busy to rammed. And yes the bleach was a one off I think (never encounterd it myself and I've been a regular since it opened).

  2. The place did full up as the day went on and a lot of them appeared to be regulars, so it does appear to have a loyal following. It was a real shame about the bleach - just made the place uncomfortable as soon as we walked in! Glad to hear it was most likely a one off.