Tastings School - Still cock of the North

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Still cock of the North

Manchester might have lost its 'cream' in the form of Boddingtons Brewery, but the self styled 'Capital of the North' remains a prime destination for beer lovers writes Richard Jones.

It may not quite inspire the ‘love it, hate it’ extremes of Marmite or Laphroaig Single Malt Whisky, but Manchester is a city that arouses mixed emotions.

Supporters argue that only London competes with it for the title of the most happening conurbation in the United Kingdom, a lively cosmopolitan place buzzing with bars, restaurants, shopping, creativity, music and culture.

Detractors point out the (still) hideous Arndale Centre, disjointed architecture despite millions spent on regeneration and the infamous Manchester weather.

And that some of its most prominent exports –Oasis, Ian Brown, Bernard Manning – hardly dispel the perception that Mancunians can be arrogant.

However when it comes to beer, Manchester unquestionably falls into the ‘love it’ (or should that be ‘mad for it’) category.

Quality local breweries, traditional pubs, ultra cool bars and nightclubs, combined with a healthy dose of Mancunian charm, make this is an essential destination for lovers of fermented alcoholic beverages brewed from malt and flavoured with hops.

To get the most out of a beer trip to Manchester you really need your walking as well as dancing shoes. Many of the best traditional pubs sit in clusters on the outskirts of the city centre in the northern and southern fringes so you may need to cover some distance to visit them all. However there are plenty of decent venues on route if your raging thirst requires a break in the journey.

Traditional beer lovers are still mourning the closure of the Strangeways Boddingtons Brewery in 1995 even though cask ale constituted only a tiny part of the production.

Boddingtons cask ale is now being brewed on a small scale at the Hyde’s Brewery (www.hydesbrewery.com) although tours are only available at 7pm Monday to Thursday.

Holts brewery in the suburb of Cheetham (www.josephholt.

com) does not offer tours, so weekend visitors to Manchester should head to The Marble Arch (73 Rochdale Road, Ancoats, Manchester, MM4 4HY 0161 832 5914 www.marblebeers.co.uk) if they want to see beer production in action, albeit on a small scale.

Home of Marble Beers, this is a totally organic and vegan friendly brewery offering an excellent range. Tours should be arranged in advance although the adjoining pub is well worth a visit in its own right