After last years excitement, Mrs RM was always accompanying me on my trip to Manchester Beer Fest 17 so I didn’t lose any precious CAMRA magazines on the tram this time round. That at least she achieved.
We had a sensible start, at least. A Flat White and Eggs Avocado at Leaf on Portland St is very civilised and very Manc. Leaf seems to have missed WhatPub’s attention, though the Liverpool branch is in. You could fit half a dozen micropubs in this attractive café/bar/late-night venue. Sharps Atlantic on pump and some interesting cans/caps/bottles/whatever that impressed Mrs RM, but it was only 10am.
The highlight, apart from a soundtrack some might call “chilled” if that wasn’t a banned word in my presence, was the sight of a bloke dad dancing in the middle of Portland Street, oblivious to the abuse of drivers on both sides Tellingly, he was waving a bottle of Prosecco around his head. Good job real ale drinkers don’t get blotto.
Then some culture to keep Mrs RM away from the horrors of the Arndale. The first big change you notice in central Manc is the tidy-up of St Peters Square which has really brought some stunning architecture to the fore. Of course, the Central Library is the gem, and the staff there were keen to make sure we took time to appreciate the reading room. Central Manchester is packed with architecture this good.
Of course, there’s plenty of controversial new development in town too, and not everyone seems as enthusiastic as I am about the omnipresent cranes that define Manchester.
Somehow Mrs RM still snuck in a visit to Lush between the Central and the Ryland, so my coat pockets were weighed down by soap all afternoon. Better than mobile phone chargers anyway.
In the queue for MBCG I did my usual “talk to a stranger” job on two Oldham folk, attempting to scare them with my estuary English and knowledge of Lees pubs in Chadderton. They weren’t impressed, and returned to their chat about steroids.
Once in, Mrs RM looked for Wi-Fi, barked orders (food and craft), and I looked for members of Black Sabbath ahead of their gig in Manc tonight.
As last year, MBCF is pretty special. Among the highlights;
- High quality beer (NBSS 3/3.5) all round – Brass Castle’s Sunshine a standout
- Lots of well-known beers and breweries, not an over-emphasis on festival specials
- Beers across the full range of strengths and styles
- Well-priced beer (I paid £1 -1.10 for quite a few thirds)
- Clean toilets
- Free drinking water
- Pipers spicy tomato crisps in enormous bags
- Cheery volunteers and chatty brewers
The only lowlight was missing the last cask of Cloudwater, but like Black Sabbath (and BrewDog) there’s time for a comeback.
We’d booked tickets for John Clarke’s Dutch beer tasting at 1pm,so there was no real reason to overdo the drinking before that. I had a third of Hyde’s Old Indie, before somehow switching to this one;
It was wonderful, but it really should have been left till last.
We’d enjoyed John’s engaging tutored tasting of IPAs and Belgian beers last year, and the Dutch bottles were a revelation, though some of the labelling fell foul of modern expectations (yes, you Ramses).
Mrs RM found the Saison and the “Spray Tan Gone Wrong” rather more challenging (“I like beer in my beer, not fake tan“), which was unfortunate as I found myself having to finish off rather more beer than strictly sensible at the end.
Pub Curmudgeon has done a provocative summary of the Great Debate. I would tend to be more charitable, and it was good to get the perspective of two of our top brewers on quality and pricing. Those debates are always better on paper than in practice. Next year stick Mudge next to Pete Brown and liven it up.
And that was me finished.
A few take-home lessons for me:-
- That Erlanger Nick is a good ‘un.
- Mrs RM is a real #PubWoman.
- Taxis have their uses.
- Just because there’s free beer you don’t have to drink it.
- Next year eat at Bundobust first.