Friday, 30 January 2015

Manchester Beer And Cider Festival, Velodrome, Manchester, 21st – 24th January 2015

This was the second year that that the annual CAMRA Manchester Beer festival had been held in the Manchester Velodrome and with a venue as unique as this it is easy to see why the organisers came back, and I imagine they will try and keep it here for the foreseeable future (I would)...

The brilliant public transport in Manchester, namely the Metrolink Tram system, negated any issues of the Velodrome being a fair distance outside of the City Centre. A return ticket to the City Centre cost £3 and the organisers offered £1 off the entry price with a valid tram ticket which made the journey even easier.

The festival took over the entire venue with many of the beers in alphabetical order on the top balcony and the inner circle of the track taken up by more individual bars including Brightside who had a very visible presence throughout the festival. There were also stalls selling Viking drinking vessels, CAMRA memorabilia, a chocolate stall and many food stalls.  Seating was not an issue. With plenty of tables and chairs in the inner circle for the many drinkers but the obvious brilliance of holding a festival in an arena setting is the amount of permanent seating. My colleague and I spent an hour sat in the arena seating watching the many different races going on that evening. This really did bring a new dimension to a festival and having a crowd was also enjoyed by the cyclists with many waving, cheering and starting Mexican waves.

And in the past the CAMRA festivals have been seen as slightly old fashioned in their approach and, in Leeds it would be hard to disagree that the international Beer Festival held in the Town Hall and not associated to CAMRA has become the main Beer Festival in the city and one of the reasons for this is the venue as an attraction. Manchester got this right and the feeling is this festival could grow and grow with more and more breweries getting on board. The social Media aspect from Manchester Beer Festival was really strong with great Twitter presence and Facebook posts. The use of a dedicated hashtag #MBCF2015 helped people get involve to see what others are drinking and definitely appealed to the newer drinkers.

And there were plenty of beers available with over 400 beers from local brewers, national brewers, Ciders and Perries and a world Beer bar so there should have been something there for everyone...

Tag Lag – Barngates Brewery
A traditional Bitter from a Brewery up in Ambleside. Many of the Beers were straight from the tap (which I believe they should be at a festival) and this was served this way. It was a solid start to the festival, a nice clean and well conditioned Bitter.

Cheshire Gap – Cheshire Brewhouse
This was a very easy drinking golden ale often referred to as a session Beer. Cheshire Brewhouse have been doing some good stuff and I believe are a brewery to look out for. Also worth noting their simple but very effective pump clips.

Ginger Brew – Bollington Brewery
This Beer did not work for me. I am a big fan of Marble’s Ginger 5.1 and Elland Brewery Ginger Pale but this one really did not work. I found the ginger to be far too raw in the Beer and it made the Beer almost undrinkable, in fact I had to throw it away.

Black Shire Stout – Tweed Brewery
This was a nice, well bodied Stout straight from the Tap. This was the only Tweed Beer I had as the others had sold out which was a good sign. Tweed Brewery appears to be growing at quite a rate and I think their Beers will be more visible in Yorkshire in the next few months. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Cherry Porter – Firebrand Brewing Company
A very good, sweet tasting porter that was reminiscent of a Black Forest Gateaux. Firebrand are a brewer from Cornwall and this Beer seemed to travel very well.

I enjoyed this Beer, I like my IPA to have more hoppiness than this one had and at only 5% it is not as strong as many IPA’S around. Seven Brothers had a big presence at the festival and again, like Tweed, could be a Brewery to follow.

None of the Beers I or my colleague had were exceptional Beers but many were very good from some breweries we knew and many we didn’t. I was surprised that the bars were using a cash system and not tokens as many festivals now use but there did not seem to be any issues arising with this. This was a very good festival. The Velodrome, the easy transport links and the mass selection of Beers all helped to create a festival well worth visiting and if it stays at the Velodrome I can only seeing it go from strength to strength.

Words - Andrew Campbell