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Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2016 – A Hit List


Manchester Beer & Cider Festival is back this week (20th-23rd January), in its new home at Manchester Central – formerly G-Mex. There will be hundreds of real ales, traditional ciders and a foreign beer bar and for the first time at a CAMRA festival, a dedicated Keykeg bar. The Beer list was published this morning. Public transport is a doddle, there will be acres of space on one level and entry and beer prices reasonable; so what’s not to like.

I tend to use festivals to find breweries and beers new to me and below are 10 beers I shall seek out. My preference is at the paler end of the beer spectrum so if you’re a Sith I suggest you take a peek at Beers Manchester‘s “dance card”; Yoda Jim is a Jedi who knows his Dark Side!

Andy Heggs of the #Tryanuary campaign has also come up with Top Ten Tipples for the Festival, here.

My hit list, in bar order.

Abstract Jungle (Peterborough) – Restless 4.5% – Bar 1

Abstract Jungle is a new brewery project launched by ex-Blue Monkey brewer, Simon King who has teamed up with Bexar County brewer Steve Saldana to upgrade and expand Bexar’s, (pronounced BEAR), existing plant and use it for both breweries. Abstract’s first beers launched in late 2015: Blue Monkey and Bexar are two breweries I have a high regard for so this sounds promising and I have been hearing good vibes. Their website says “expect loads of interesting stuff and massively strong brews for the keg market plus a small amount for cask and lots of top secret wizardry…”

They have two beers at the festival, Casual a 4.5% Stout and Restless; the latter “a sessionable golden ale with bags of Simcoe and Amarillo hops”, two of my favourite hop varieties; give it a try.

Ad Hop (Liverpool) – Sasquatch 4.2% – Bar 1

I know very little about this brewery based in Ponoma St, Liverpool but have been hearing very good things about their collaborations and heard their own Code Red and Black Widow, (Keg) at this year’s IndyMan were excellent and their Raspberry Infused Liquorice Lady at Liverpool Craft Beer Expo was similarly so. They only put a beer into cask for the first time in December; Sasquatch is described as a Best Bitter and 4.2% – that’s it! Worth a try! Ad Hop also has two beers on the Keykeg Bar.

AllGates (Wigan) – All Day Coffee IPA – 5.1% – Bar 1

No apologies for choosing our own, but it will be a first for me to sample it, not from FV or CT. Brewed in collaboration with Connor Murphy of Manchester Beer Week, especially for this Beer Festival, this dark golden style-changing IPA brewed with Citra, Cascade and Mosaic hops with a late addition (6.5Kg) triple shot blend of three coffee origins, courtesy of Atkinsons of Lancaster, is hopefully a game changer. Read our Blog Post  here. We also have Mad Monk and Wigan Junction on Bar 1.

Brewsmith (Ramsbottom) – Admiral Porter 4.0% – Bar 1

Another collaboration, (brewed with festival staff) and as the name suggests, brewed with Admiral hops, and my first nod to a dark beer. Whilst Brewsmith only commenced brewing in 2014, since first sampling their beers I have become a big fan, big! And the Admiral hop is one of my two favourite English hops; reasons enough! Brewsmith Bitter and IPA are also on Bar 1.

Fixed Wheel Brewery – Bar 1

Fixed Wheel Brewery is also on Bar 1 with Blackheath Stout, Chain Reaction and No Brakes IPA. I am a huge fan of their beers and may have a scoop of two but I have tried all these three offerings previously. But for anyone who hasn’t these Black Country beauts, are worth seeking out, period!.

Mallinsons (Huddersfield) – Sorachi Ace – 4.2% – Bar 2

Why? Because it’s Mallinsons and no other brewer does single hopped pale ales better and Sorachi Ace whilst a fabulous hop, with its intense lemon, dill and cilantro flavours is like Marmite and needs careful handling, but done well can be brilliant. Tara and Elaine have brewed with Sorachi Ace before but to a lower ABV. I am sure it will be straightforward, hoppy and pale and will work. Reason enough! Mallinsons also has Simcoe on Bar 2.

Talking of Marmite, whilst not my mug of whatever, on Bar 3, Marmite Stout 5.3%; a collaboration between Ticketybrew and Quantum may be worth seeking out, for those willing to try something different.

Sirencraft Brew (Finchampstead) – Counting Vampires – 6.1% – Bar 3

I am a huge fan of Sirencraft. As for the name; according to English folklore, growing blackberries near your home would ensure a Vampire couldn’t enter. The tale goes; they would obsessively count the berries and forget what they were there for. This is a special release dark IPA, packed with fresh blackberries and blackberry puree and is the first beer from their new Head Brewer, Markus Wagner. Sirencraft also has Broken Dream on the bar.

Three Blind Mice (Little Downham) – Milk Worm 5.2% – Bar 3

Three Blind Mice only commenced brewing in 2014; we had a couple of firkins of their Lonely Snake, a Golden Ale, in our Road to Wigan Beer Festival last October and both flew out; so for a last turn to the dark side, I am going with this Chocolate and Vanilla milk porter. They also have Wheat Widow on Bar 3.

Track Brewery (Manchester, M1)/Matt Dutton – Pale Rye (Name & ABV TBC) – Bar 3

I am going with Yoda Jim’s recommendation here; I too enjoy Track’s Sonama and given Matt Dutton was last year’s UK National Homebrew champion, this should be worth trying. Sonama and two other Track beers are also on Bar 3

Vocation (Hebden Bridge) – Pride & Joy – Simcoe – 5.3% – Bar 3

This is a brewery people I respect have been saying good things about. To-date I have only tried two or three of their permanent offerings and none yet from their new small package, in can, but Pride & Joy, an APA was my favourite, and it was good, bloody good; so this one-off, hopped with Simcoe should be interesting. Bread and Butter and Heart and Soul, two permanent Vocation beers are also on Bar 3.

A Blackjack / Hawkshead / Quantum Collaboration – Manuka – 5.0% – Hawkshead Brewery Bar

Listed as a speciality beer and with the only known ingredients been Belgian Yeast, Kaffir Lime leaves and dried New Zealand Manuka leaf. #readysteadybrew

For information on the festival, visit their website here or for the latest news visit their Twitter account here. And even if you don’t agree with any of the above choices, please do get ticking for Tryanuary.