IT was great to hear GRUB appointed to manage the new weekly food fair at the Mayfield Depot. Even better that within a month they will be hosting the launch party for the second Manchester Beer Week on Friday, June 23, a free event at the start of 10 days (until Sunday, July 2) of hop frenzy across the city. As a taster at Mayfield you’ll find a selection of beer from Manchester's best breweries – including a number of specials created especially for the festival – as well as fantastic food, pop-up tastings, talks and DJs. It runs from 6pm-11pm.
And that’s just the start as festival organiser Connor Murphy (above) and his team seek to capitalise on last year’s inaugural event, which showcased our incredible beer scene through 94 events at 72 venues across Greater Manchester, including pubs, bars, breweries, restaurants and retailers.
He tells ToM: "The first year of Manchester Beer Week was more successful than we ever could have hoped but this year's event promises to be even better. A lot of creative thought has gone into the various events and we're confident we'll be able to deliver one of the best celebrations of beer that you'll see this year.
"We believe Manchester is the best beer city in the country – now it's time for the brewers, venues and the public to stand up and prove it.”
Details are still scant of one headlining event on the opening weekend that fulfils all that premise – the Brewery Expo, but the plan is for every brewery in the city centre to throw open its doors to the public on Saturday June 24, with a handful also be opening on the Friday and Sunday. Confirmed so far: Alphabet, Beatnikz Republic, Beer Nouveau, Blackjack, Chorlton, Cloudwater, Dan’s Brewery, Manchester Brewing Co, Runaway, Squawk, Track.
It’s the prelude for a busy week of tastings, debates and other events at all of them. They range from a chance to take part in a blending session with the city’s foremost exponent of sour beers, a debate on ‘Sexism in the Brewery Industry’ plus some intriguing link-ups between breweries and food producers.
Collaborations between breweries themselves are commonplace these days, but few festivals can boast the partnerships forged for MCR Beer Week, their special creations et to be launched on the first Monday of the festival, June 26, at a number of venue.
This year's teams see Blackjack paired with the Lake District's finest, Hawkshead, while craft beer forefather Marble forms an intriguing partnership with rapidly-growing Leeds brewery Northern Monk.
Hop masters Track will work with highly-rated London brewery Brew By Numbers and Runaway has big plans for their collab with cuckoo brewer Left Handed Giant (above), from Bristol.
Threesome? Cloudwater will team up with two of the most talked-about new breweries in the country – Lost and Grounded from Bristol and Falmouth's Verdant, recently named Best New Brewery in the UK by review website RateBeer.
Expect to find all of these special ales at the ‘Manchester Tap’ planned for a prominent venue in the craft beer scene. There will also be taps for beers from London, Manchester and `bristol along with a Scottish tap all week at Brewdog on Peter Street, where you can taste the likes of Fierce Beer, Tempest Brew Co, Fallen, Cromarty and Six Degrees North.
Another showcase for outstanding beers from Manchester and beyond comes on the final weekend (Friday, June 30 to Sunday, July 2) – the Pilcrow Summer Beer Thing, taking place in NOMA’s ‘home-made pub’ in Sadler’s Yard near Victoria Station.
That same weekend (but starting on Thursday, June 29), the cask ale big guns show their mettle at the Central Manchester Beer and Cider Festival, held in the 53two Theatre on Albert Street (the former Bauer Millett car showroom opposite the Briton's Protection).
Beer will be offered from both cask and KeyKeg, and the festival will feature a Central Manchester Bar offering delights from all the smaller breweries within the branch boundaries. This is expected to include the likes of Beer Nouveau, Blackjack, Cloudwater, Runaway, Marble and Track.
There will also be a larger bar featuring quality beer from across the UK, including Mallinson’s, Brass Castle, Vocation, Tiny Rebel, Pig & Porter and more. A separate bar will feature cider sourced from local producers.
Entry prices are £2 for the Thursday session; £3 on Friday (£5 after 5pm), and £4 on Saturday. Pay on the door. CAMRA members receive a £2 discount on all sessions. Further details here.
Headline sponsor of Manchester Beer Week is the Co-op, which will play a part in creating the festival’s official beer, which will then be made available in selected stores.
“We’re also delighted to have Co-op on board as main sponsors because few businesses have had quite such an impact in Manchester… it’s an organisation with community very much at its core,” said Connor.
Keep up to date with Manchester Beer Week via @mcrbeerweek