There was once a time, not all that long ago really, when words like ‘craft beer’ and ‘real ale’ conjured images of warm, flat pints of Robbie’s stewing by an overflowing ashtray on a wonky table between the always-about-to-drop fruit machine and the twenty pence piece laden pool table. Not these days, the extinction of the pool table and once-affordable price of a pint aside (you know who you are), it’s a great time to be alive and drinking beer.
Where Manchester and Salford once had crumbling railway arches, we now have microbreweries watched over by wizard-like beardos serving up a mind-boggling choice of delicious beers to the city’s pubs. The brewery-ran boozers have either gotten their acts together or disappeared completely. Here’s a few of our favorite purveyors of quality beer.
What are you waiting for? Hop to it.
Here are our picks
Marble Arch Pub, 73 Rochdale Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 4HY - Visit now
Before I was introduced to Marble Beers, I mistakenly thought real ale was exclusive to middle-aged men nursing pot bellies beneath Iron Maiden t-shirts. Way before the trustafarians began slapping £7 price tags on tiny cans of uber-local beers scrawled with cartoons, Marble were producing the best stuff in town at an unbelievably reasonable price. They’re still good value and easily remain one of the best in town. The Arch itself is a beautiful pub with a food menu almost as appealing as its beers. You can also find Marble on Thomas Street and in Chorlton.
Port Street Beer House, 39-41 Port Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 2EQ - Visit now
Ideal for the true beer aficionado, the wide-windowed Port Street has an unrivalled selection of speciality ales – from seven handpulls, eighteen draft lines and over a hundred bottled beers – to be enjoyed in its ground floor bar, upstairs lounge or small beer garden space at the back.
The Knott, 374 Deansgate, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 4LY - Visit now
Nestled among the railway arches at the bottom of Deansgate, The Knott is a handy little boozer with a great selection of beers and a decent-if-not-brilliant choice of food. The balcony is a dry outdoor space perfect for watching the high-heeled struggle on their way down the cobbled road to Albert’s Shed.
BrewDog Manchester, 35 Peter Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 5BG - Visit now
Ahh BrewDog, the brewery the media love to hate. Okay, you now find their beers filling the fridges of Tesco and the publicity stunts got a little old, but the beer is good and their bar on Peter Street is a nice spot.
The Smithfield Market Tavern, 37 Swan St, Manchester, M4 5JZ
While it looks a lot like a traditional pub, you won’t find a sticky floor or the smell of stale beer. What you will find is darts, billiards, skittles and an excellent line-up of ales.
The New Oxford, 11 Bexley Square, Salford, Manchester, M3 6DB - Visit now
16 changing cask ales, 12 continental beers on draft and a “world beer menu” with over 100 bottled European beers, need I say more? Bexley Square is a lovely spot in the summer and the New Oxford is an essential stop on your Sounds from the Other City itinerary. During the winter, it’s just the right amount of cozy.
Cask, 29 Liverpool Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 4NQ
Not strictly “real ale” specialist and certainly not the first choice for local brews, but it’s impossible to argue with Cask’s selection of continental beers. If you like yours bottled and north of 8%, look no further.
Because of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, we are unable to bring you our usual recommendations for things to do in Manchester and the North. Our thoughts at this time are with our readers and with the organisations and businesses who make the North of England a great place to live and visit. We hope you stay well and look forward to sharing more unmissable events and places with you later in the year.
Here’s our guide to supporting organisations in Manchester and the North.
Please note – many of the venues on our site will be closed and events either postponed or cancelled. Please check the venue website for details.