Not Tired of Life, Just Tired of Manchester (pubs)

I’ve never liked crowds; or being honest, people in general, the thronging masses of homo sapiens and their need to get wherever they are going and quickly as they can and fuck everyone else. Or the opposite of this, who toddle along or stop and chat on stairs or outside doors and are a general nuisance to everyone trying to get somewhere. Misanthropy can make you view things in extremes but all I see it common sense not being that common.

When I stopped working in Manchester I stopped having to commute through Manchester and I stopped having to go to pubs there to console my time wasted as another train or bus home was late, delayed or cancelled.

I started working and therefore drinking, in earnest, in Manchester some 15 years ago, not long in the scheme of things but a lot has changed in those years and I suspect a lot of people who communicate about beer probably weren’t old enough to drink back then either. For a point of reference it was a time before Port Street Beer House existed, then during, when it opened and became excellent and then further down the line, when it went on to become arrogant and shit.

During the past few weeks I’ve drunk in many towns and cities on extended holidays, especially in London, a place I have also seen change over the past decade or so I’ve made regular trips down there for drinks and the purposes of entertainment and relaxation (get your mind out of the gutter).

I note how the first stop is the Euston Tap and they just seem to be coasting along, resting on their laurels and the captive audience they have but at least that place was deserving of a pedestal at one time, unlike its Manchester Piccadilly counterpart which has always been a hollow shell.

I entertained finally going to the Bermondsey beer mile, if only to indulge my love of Kernel Brewery beers but they don’t open apart from to sell bottles and seeing as very few of the micro (call them craft if you so wish) London breweries are actually much cop (Weird Beard being one rare exception), it wouldn’t be worth my time or money. Full marks to Kernel for not being a slave to trends which now seems to have convinced people that drinking in industrial units under heavy neon lights surrounded by a bit of art is tip-top entertainment. I like Fox’s Biscuits and Heinz Beans but you wouldn’t see me clamouring to get to the a taste of those wares in the factories at Batley and Kitt Green, far better to consume them at home, in the warmth, away from notice-me-wankers (and probably Greg(g) Wallace).

London as a whole has changed, always a heaving metropolis, the description that opens this piece fits it best, though I’ve always respected the seeming fact that London centre pubs are treated as iconic and as necessary furnishments to the economy, something that Manchester, in its clamour to look exactly like London spectacularly loves to ignore and destroy. The personal epiphany though was that all the pubs in London I went in to were havens from the gaggling hordes, something I can’t say for Manchester.

That my opening gambit in every pub and bar I went into was “do you still take cash?” and only once was the answer a “no” still heartens me.

I thought it was just city drinking I was dulled to however not only tolerating but actually enjoying recent trips to Leeds, York, Edinburgh and Sheffield and a whole host of small towns coupled with the London excursion showed that maybe its a case that familiarity breeds contempt and it is well possible because every time I’ve been back to Manchester it has just been a bit meh.

I speak for me, this is my “Rekall moment,” and not to slight the pubs, old and new that are there or the drinks that are on offer.  I am fully aware I’m the factor here.

This piece seems to be acting as a nice intro into another small bit I’m working on called “My Love of Holt’s Pubs” which will be published, when I can be bothered.

 

I’m Linus van Pelt and pubs, except for those in the centre of Manchester are my security blanket.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Oh, of note in London pubs.  Cask beer was significantly improve over recent years (I don’t take my own thermometer though).  Sam Smith’s pubs vary in whether they bother in enforcing their “no mobiles” rule or not.

#BrewExit

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.

Also worth reading on a similar note (scarily so) to the first part but more coherently scribed is a piece by Boak & Bailey and this, by an actual local brewer (Beer Nouveau).

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.