The final part of my “Shitting on my Doorstep” trilogy. Unless I do a Douglas Adams.
In fact I’m annoyed that I made the “They Live” comparison in Part 1 and then didn’t carry it on as I think “Escape from New York” would work well with Part 2 and then obviously “The Thing” for this piece, or vice versa, oh John Carpenter how I failed thee.
If you want to know just how many brewers there are in the county of Greater Manchester then this is the list I’m trying to maintain.
I’ve not made an update for a while, it is quite possibly some will be removed soon, either they never got started or they have been swallowed up by the competition locally and gone off to do something else. Though I do note another one is starting up, coupled to a restaurant, I could be cynical about its reasons but it would be unfair to undercut a new business before it has even started.
One of the things I’ve noticed since starting the list and drinking more in central Manchester (the city centre to be precise) is the hold that only a specific amount of breweries have over a specific amount of bars and pubs.
I’m not talking about the family breweries (Holts, JW Lees, Robinsons & Hydes) with their own pubs and ties. Nor am I talking about those newer breweries smart enough to expand their portfolios into pubs and bars.
No, it now seems that other venues in Manchester; those that regularly make “must visit” lists and that I freely admit will recommend if someone wants to know where to go, are themselves tied. Some even appear to have dedicated lines.
In fact I could walk into any number of these bars and pubs and predict, baring the actual beer, which local breweries will be on offer from week to week. Even more concerning is these bars will also feature the same reoccurring cast of breweries from further afield.
Good breweries making good beers are always going to have reserved space at any bar, but to me it seems that some places have lost any sense of adventure in getting in new, especially local, breweries.
The chances of me finding beers from the 50+ breweries not located in the centre of Manchester actually in city centre venues are virtually nil and there are only a select few from in Manchester itself that get a look in as it is anyway.
It is all a bit too cliquey and, though we are dealing with business, seems far removed from the grass-roots, against ties, against repetition mantra that you would associated with the real ale/craft beer movement. Its almost as if there is a central Manchester cartel.
There are a plethora of breweries within the city centre of Manchester. Being cynical this time I would happily suggest that a few of them are here because the rent is cheaper than London and the competition is less established, less well funded and therefore more easily crushed. It wouldn’t really surprise me if breweries from London and elsewhere actually came and pitched up in central Manchester to give themselves an even firmer footing in the North.
These ‘bigger micros’ with their advertising and marketing budgets can court every starry-eyed beer journalist to give them cheap publicity and gushing praise which then easily feeds into the cyclical dog-whistle nature of people who drink only ‘craft’ because its on trend.
Conversely, these city centre breweries don’t seem to make it out into the sticks at all. Granted small towns and cities can conceivably have a small and less “crafty” (errghh, sorry) drinking population, also these drinkers will have less money to spend, but from what I have observed this is rather myopic and slightly patronising.
Whereas keg beers would never really get a look in, there is a vast market for cask within the metropolitan county of Manchester that is relatively untapped by local breweries, and I’m not just talking about the city centre ones.
Of course you have your beer cities; London, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle with Edinburgh and Glasgow and possibly Nottingham up & coming and these are the big markets, it is always the priority to get a foothold in them.
Obviously these cities themselves have their own local breweries, especially our capital and so the competition is even more fierce. Granted, it isn’t like you can just walk into a pub say which brewery you’re from and hand over a price sheet and wait for a call.
Actually, fuck that, it is that simple. And people are always willing to pay a little extra from something a little different and especially something that is new. Simple logistics to the people in pubs near me is that a return trip into Manchester will set you back about £5, so that fiver “saved” can be spent on slightly more expensive drinks.
I don’t expect businesses to have show any real loyalty to where they are brewing. But there is a massively cynical exploitation (granted, of the easily exploitable) going on in Manchester. It makes me wonder, given how many London breweries have sold up recently, if some of those in Manchester aren’t angling for a big pay-day sometime soon too.
Thanks for reading.