Looking through my blog post archive, there’s various guides and lists I’ve pulled together about pubs and bars from locations across the UK and beyond – but I realised I’ve never done one for the city I spend most of my time in! So, here’s a look at some of the best craft beer bars and pubs in Manchester city centre (in my own humble opinion).
The Marble Arch
Without a doubt, The Marble Arch is simply one of Manchester’s best pubs. It’s got it all: a historic building, its own brewery (although it’s now located down the road and not in the pub’s backroom) and excellent food. I don’t think anyone could go to The Marble Arch and not fall in love – and it’s definitely worth the short walk down Rochdale Road out of the city centre.
73 Rochdale Road – marblebeers.com/
Since its launch in late 2015, Café Beermoth has very quickly become a must-visit for craft beer fans. As it’s from the team behind Northern Quarter bottle shop Beermoth, it’s no surprise that the beer on offer is of high quality. Expect cask and keg beer from some of the UK’s best breweries as well as options from further afield – and regular tap takeovers. If you’re not ready for a beer, the coffee is excellent too and they also serve deli boards to snack on. An all-round winner. They have a Twitter account just for beer updates if you want to know what’s available.
Beermoth also open their cellar in their Tib Street shop every Friday and Saturday between 12 and 8pm so you can drink bottles on site.
Cafe Beermoth, 40a Spring Gardens (Brown Street entrance) – beermoth.co.uk/cafe/
Beermoth, 70 Tib Street – beermoth.co.uk/shop/
The Smithfield Tavern
The Smithfield is a prime example of how a new operator can breathe life into a pub and change its fortunes. Now that the team from Blackjack are in charge, what was a quiet venue not really on anyone’s radar has become a bustling pub that’s always popular. Although Blackjack’s beers feature heavily, the cask and keg boards also feature a variety of guest ales so there’s always something new to try. It’s next door to the recently-opened Mackie Mayor Market, which is also home to a Blackjack bar named Jack in the Box and serves a range of food.
37 Swan Street – twitter.com/TheSmithfieldNQ
Good food always goes well with good beer and Bundobust showcases the very best of both of these making it a firm favourite in my book. Located in a basement close to Piccadilly Gardens, Bundobust serves 14 keg beers and two (often local) options on cask alongside their menu of vegetarian and vegan Indian street food. Although it’s underground, it’s not dark and dingy thanks to its vibrant artwork and large skylight above the large communal tables. Although it is a restaurant, it’s very relaxed with no table service and punters more than welcome to just come in for drinks – it can get very busy on weekend evenings though so you might have to wait for a seat at the bar (but that’s where the beer is, so it’s not great hardship!) Definitely get the Okra Fries.
61 Piccadilly – bundobust.com/manchester/
The Pilcrow is “the pub that people built” as much of the work on site was done by volunteers who took part in free courses to learn traditional crafts as part of its construction. The look is very modern with wood aplenty and there’s also outdoor seating for those occasionally sunny days – a rarity in the city centre. There are 14 taps available (one is usually a cider) as well as some options on cask and fridges full of bottles and cans. The pub has close ties with Cloudwater, so expect to see their beers available fairly often. A range of tap takeovers and events take place, and don’t miss their annual Summer Beer Thing. Get yourself a Locals’ card for 10% off drinks.
Sadler’s Yard, Hanover Street – thepilcrowpub.com/
Fairfield Social Club
Fairfield Social Club is one of the city’s newest haunts and has recently been opened by street food event organisers Grub. It’s located in a railway arch as part of the Mayfield Depot building near Piccadilly, but it feels a world away from its industrial location thanks to its cosy atmosphere, kitsch mismatched furniture and general good vibes. The bar is curated by the Grub bar team and features beers from Manchester’s best breweries including Marble, Runaway and Cloudwater as well as others from around the UK. Fairfield Social Club hosts a vegan-only food event on a Sunday, and as a result many of the beers are vegan friendly.
Archway 6, Temperance Street (off Fairfield Street) – fscmcr.com/
57 Thomas Street
Marble’s Northern Quarter outpost serves a good range of Marble Brewery beers alongside a menu of spirits and cocktails, making it a good place to go if you have people who aren’t beer fans with you. They serve mainly keg beer although there is always at least one Marble cask on. Set over two floors, it is quite a cosy space and because of its NQ location can get very busy on the weekends but it’s often quite relaxed during the day.
57 Thomas Street – twitter.com/Marble57TStreet
The Knott was always a decent place to pop into for a beer but after a recent revamp, it’s even better. Located under a railway arch near Deansgate station, The Knott has a whopping 25 keg lines alongside eight cask beers. Local beers feature heavily, especially Manchester’s very own Wander Beyond. It attracts a mixed crowd with patrons of all ages and everyone from solo drinkers in for a swift pint to couples post-shopping to larger groups bedding down for an evening of eating and drinking. If you want to eat, there’s a wood-fired pizza oven on site.
74 Deansgate – twitter.com/theknott
Port Street Beer House
Port Street Beer House is one of Manchester’s first craft beer bars and is operated by the team who run annual beer extravaganza Indy Man Beer Con and Common in the Northern Quarter. Both cask and keg are available with the range generally quite focused on UK beers, and it also hosts a variety of tap takeovers and events throughout the year (check my Manchester beer events calendar for more!) It can get busy Friday and Saturday nights – I’ve seen occasions when it’s been one in, one out – but at most times there’s at least some seats free upstairs. You can also register for one of their membership cards which gives you 10% off drink-in beers and 20% off bottles/cans to take away.
39-41 Port Street – portstreetbeerhouse.co.uk/
When I visit a new city or town, I’m always keen to try the local beer and The Brink is one place in Manchester where you’re guaranteed to get beer made in the local area. A basement bar on Bridge Street, The Brink only sells beer and cider within a 25 mile radius of the bar. Cask and keg options are available, as well as bottles alongside some spirits. Expect to see the likes of Track, Squawk, First Chop and more. It’s also home to a huge panoramic image of Manchester on one of the walls, and there have been plenty of discussions about where it’s taken from and what you can see, so be sure to join in the debate.
65 Bridge Street – brinkmcr.co.uk/
Northern Monk Refectory Manchester
A recent addition to Manchester’s beer scene, Northern Monk have taken over the former Kosmonaut site for their first bar outside of their native Leeds. Cask and keg options are available – there’s 20 keg lines although one is usually given over to cider and another two for draught cocktails alongside four hand pumps. On offer is mostly Northern Monk beers, from the core range to specials and collabs, but a few guests are provided including Timothy Taylor’s Landlord permanently on cask. The decor isn’t dramatically different from the venue’s previous life but the beer selection is significantly better, and it’s a great addition to the Northern Quarter.
10 Tariff Street – facebook.com/NMRefectoryMCR/
Manchester’s brewery taps
Along side the craft beer bars and pubs of Manchester, the city is home to a large number of breweries including Cloudwater, Runaway and Track, and many of these open their doors for regular brew tap events – some of them are open every week while others only run special events (see my beer calendar at the top for the opening times). I’ve done a separate guide to Manchester’s brewery taps with more information.
Looking to find out about beer events taking place? Check out my Manchester beer events calendar