There was once a time, not all that long ago really, when words like ‘craft beer’ and ‘real ale’ conjured up 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, 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 offering up a mind-boggling choice of delicious beers to the city’s pubs. The brewery-ran boozers have either gotten their act together, faded with their aging clientele 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.
– Polly Checkland Harding
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.
Pie & Ale, Northern Quarter Arcade, The Hive (off Lever Street), Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 1FN - Visit now
Pie & Ale specialises in regional craft beer with a rotating selection of six beers on tap every week, a fantastic bottle selection and, as the name would suggest, a range of pies to go with your pint.
– Kate Feld
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.
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.