Visiting some of Manchester’s new openings

Manchester is full of pubs and bars but this doesn’t stop new ones from constantly opening their doors in the city. As a creature of habit, I generally find myself sticking to the same places as I know what I like.

But with  a free day and an open mind, we decided to spend an afternoon visiting some of the new openings in Manchester to see if any of them are worth a return visit.

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57 Thomas Street – Manchester

After a significant revamp, Marble’s Northern Quarter outpost 57 Thomas Street has now reopened so we had to pop down and visit. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Marble’s beers, but I’d always choose to walk down the road and head to The Marble Arch rather than that visit Thomas Street as I prefer the historic look and I’ve always felt the NQ site was just too cramped in terms of seating, so in my view a rejig of the venue was long overdue and something I was looking forward to checking it out.

Marble had said ‘early December’ was when Thomas Street was due to reopen, but as with most things which involve building work it can be hard to pin down a date so it was a rather low-key Twitter post on December 18 that announced the bar’s return.

Marble Beers - 57 Thomas Street

We headed down the following day after visits to Torrside Brewery in New Mills then Beer Nouveau up near Piccadilly, so it was about 8.30pm when we’d got down there and as a result, it was busy. The venue is going to have two floors, but at the minute only the ground floor is open – there’s a door at the back which says ‘No entry…yet’.

Marble Beers - 57 Thomas Street

The bar itself has stayed in the same place and is roughly the same length, but it looks longer as 57 Thomas Street is now keg-only so where there were previously casks on the bar, there’s now a lot more space and it makes getting served much easier! An extended section of the bar also serves as a small table.

Marble Beers - 57 Thomas Street

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’d always felt the venue previously seemed too cramped as a result of the layout of the seating, as you’d often have to disturb others to find yourself somewhere to sit. But that’s all changed now. Instead of large tables seating ten, there are now individual tables for four – with two freestanding seats for each and a long wooden bench running the entire length of the building next to the tables providing two (or more, depending on how busy the bar is) additional seats. You are still quite cosy with other drinkers but not in the same way you were so it feels a lot more private and roomy – a great design which makes the most of a long and thin space. At the back, there’s also a separate table which is ideal for groups. The only aspect of the design I didn’t like was the setup of the toilet. There’s only one (I assume there will be more upstairs) so it’s unisex and to queue for it, you’re in the way of the bar. I’m hoping that once the upstairs is finished there will be more as for a venue that busy on a Saturday evening, it wasn’t an ideal setup.

Marble Beers - 57 Thomas Street

I apologise for this fairly awful picture – it was very busy!

But more importantly than the look – what’s the beer like? As I mentioned, it’s all keg now with Marble’s own, of course, dominating. During our visit, on draught from Marble there was Antipodean, Boheme, Earl Grey IPA, Ginger, Lagonda and Valbryggda, a collaboration with All In, along with Magic Rock’s Common Grounds and Brewed With Friends (a collab with Kee’s).  This was complemented by a fairly extensive bottle list, and a menu of bar snacks. We’ll definitely have to return at a quieter time to sample some grub.

Marble Beers - 57 Thomas Street 57 Thomas Street - bar snacks menu

Although it’s not completely finished yet, the refurb of 57 Thomas Street has been done very well and makes the most of the limited space. I always felt it didn’t have the greatest layout in the past and it’s now much improved. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with the upper floor.

Marble Beer House, 57 Thomas Street, Northern Quarter.

Café Beermoth – Manchester

After months of anticipation Café Beermoth, the café/bar owned by the team at Northern Quarter beer shop Beermoth, has opened its doors in Manchester. I popped down on the opening weekend to check it out and see what it’s all about.

Spring Gardens with its modern office buildings and the hell-on-earth that is the Post Office might not be your first thought of somewhere to go for decent beer, but Café Beermoth really is a game-changer. Despite some of the sterile buildings in the area, the site has been transformed into a very appealing looking venue. One note though – it can be a bit tricky to find. I think 40 Spring Gardens is the name of the entire building – the entrance to Café Beermoth is actually on the street behind (Brown Street) and is a few doors down from Fopp. You can also walk down Spring Gardens and turn right just after the Post Office to find it.

Cafe Beermoth, Manchester

It’s quite a large space with a long bar running down one side and a number of booths next to the large glass windows. There’s also a couple of tables dotted around the middle of the bar, but they’re spaced out so it doesn’t feel cluttered. The booths in particular are lovely – we stayed a while longer than we had intended, particularly because it was just so comfortable.

But the other reason for our extended visit was the excellent range of beer.

Cafe Beermoth, Manchester

There’s 17 beers on draft (cask and keg) at Café Beermoth with a good mix of options from the UK, Belgium and elsewhere, and a variety of styles on offer. This is complemented by a bottle list dominated by beers from the USA, Belgium and the UK.

Cafe Beermoth, Manchester

During our visit, my highlight was definitely Buxton’s Stronge Extra Stout and it was also great to sample Mad Hatter’s Tzatziki Sour which was like nothing I’d had before. The draft beers are priced in various measures (check the board), but all beers can be served in 1/3s, 1/2s, 2/3s – whatever you want. Always something I appreciate.

Cafe Beermoth, Manchester

But if beer’s not your thing, the venue is also very much about coffee – it’s not called ‘Café’ Beermoth for no reason. They open their doors at 8am during the week, aimed at providing caffeine to the workers in the nearby office blocks, before serving alcohol from 12noon.

Cafe Beermoth, Manchester

I went down a few weeks ago to chat to one of the owners about the plans, and was told they were inspired by a bar in Brussels called Moeder Lambic Fontainas. This was actually somewhere we’d visited the previous weekend (see my Brussels post for more!) and I can see they have taken some cues from this venue but also put their own stamp on it. It’s a brilliant addition to Manchester with a well-thought out design and excellent beer list – and is definitely somewhere I can see becoming one of our regular haunts.

Café Beermoth, 40 Spring Gardens (entrance on Brown Street).

The Smithfield Tavern – and a visit to Blackjack Brew Tap and Runaway Brewery

Fresh from spending a week in Cologne drinking pretty much nothing but Kolsch, we headed into town this weekend to visit the recently reopened Smithfield Tavern.

On the fringe of the Northern Quarter (across the street from Bar Fringe, incidentally), the Smithfield is now being operated by the team behind the nearby Blackjack Brewery. It’s had a lick of paint on the outside and a much-needed design revamp on the inside.

We’d first called in a few months back, before Blackjack were involved. At that time, the outside was surrounded by scaffolding and the decor was…unique to say the least. One of its most distinctive features was a pool table cut in half for use as an actual table. A bar takeover by Seven Bro7hers had alerted us to the pub and we were pretty chuffed by the sheer value for money it offered. But it was very quiet and didn’t look like this would change in the foreseeable future.

Smithfield old

(Although I remember taking some pics of the pub in its former guise, this is the only one I could find).

Fast forward a few months, and we were sat in the same place but it was bustling. What a turnaround.

As we’d been away, we’d missed the opening night so our first visit was a Friday night just a week after its relaunch.

Inside, the brightly coloured tiles and the pool ‘table’ were gone and instead replaced with a simple rustic design filled with vintage furniture of varying periods – we were sat at what appeared to be a Victorian-style table with cast iron legs and I also spotted some 60s era tables, chairs and cabinets.

Smithfield Northern Quarter Manchester

Smithfield Northern Quarter Manchester

It fits with the Northern Quarter without being too over the top pretentious. A quick job or a simple design? Either way, it works. I also noted hooks by the most of the bar stools – head to Scandinavia and northern Europe and you’ll see hooks everywhere so there’s plenty of places for patrons to hang their coats without having to hog extra seating. Maybe it’s a bit nerdy of me, but it’s just so bloody useful to have them that I wish more UK bars did.

Smithfield Tavern Northern Quarter Manchester

Some other bits to note – I liked the choice of activities throughout the pub including skittles (using what appeared to be the afore mentioned pool ‘table’, darts with a fully marked out oche mat and a piano.

Smithfield Tavern Northern Quarter Manchester

Smithfield Tavern Northern Quarter Manchester

Smithfield Tavern Northern Quarter Manchester

The ladies’ toilets also had a snazzy little mirror which caught my eye, as well as some some ye olde tiles on the approach to the bathroom.

Smithfield Tavern Northern Quarter Manchester

Smithfield Tavern Northern Quarter Manchester

But now the important stuff – the beer. With six handpumps and ten keg taps (along with a fully stocked fridge and Blackjack Lager on a separate keg), there’s definitely a decent amount of choice.

Smithfield Tavern Northern Quarter Manchester

Although Blackjack feature heavily, they don’t dominate so it’s nice to see plenty of options available. Prices are also fair – and they offer thirds, halves and pints.

Smithfield Tavern Northern Quarter Manchester

We settled in and had a few and by the time we’d decided to move on to the Blackjack Brew Tap, it was busy.

We’d planned to go to the Brew Tap on Saturday instead, but found ourselves making a visit on the Friday too. The last few times we’ve been it’s usually been on a Sunday and fairly quiet, so it was great to finally to visit of an evening and experience more of the atmosphere.

I failed to take many pictures (with the exception of my Untappd check-ins) and I didn’t get one of the beer board so I can’t quite remember what was on at the time.

Blackjack Brew Tap Green Quarter Manchester

But there was a nice mix of beers from Blackjack and others so we happily whiled away a few hours sampling some of the options before heading for a night cap at The Marble Arch (my favourite pub, don’tcha know) and then home.

Come Saturday afternoon we were back in town. I was off for dinner for a friends’ birthday early evening, so we popped out slightly earlier to get chance to visit Runaway Brewery.

Located in the railway arches close to Blackjack and Marble Brewery, this was the first time Runaway had opened their doors and had been timed to coincide with Blackjack’s event.

Making good use of pallets and large wooden spools, they’ve created a small bar, fencing and tables inside and had brought along some additional seating outdoors. This minimalist design was clean and crisp, and the addition of a few drawings of the brewery’s bottles made you forget you were under a railway arch (until the trains/trams went overhead at least).

Runaway Brewery Green Quarter Manchester

Runaway Brewery Green Quarter Manchester

Four kegs were on hand so we decided to go for the Hopfenweisse first. I’d sampled it at Stockport Beer Fest and really enjoyed it, so it was good to try it again – even if it was a little lively to pour! While waiting for it to settle we were kindly offered samples of the Marzen Lager and American Brown to try, and Ross also went for the smoked porter.

Runaway Brewery Green Quarter Manchester

It attracted a decent-sized crowd (again, fairly busy by the time we left) and was a genuinely good little brewtap, so I do hope they open their doors again soon.

Our second visit to Blackjack then beckoned, and this time I did remember to take a picture of the board (I think the line-up was pretty similar or maybe even identical to the previous evening, but I can’t be sure).

Blackjack Brew Tap Green Quarter Manchester

Being one of those rare warm and sunny days in Manchester, we plonked ourselves on one of the outdoor tables and made our way through a few of the options before one popping over to the Arch again for one last beer before my night out.

Blackjack Brew Tap Green Quarter Manchester

The area known as the Green Quarter is rapidly becoming a bit of a beery hotspot these days. Not something I thought I’d say about a section of the city which is dominated by overpriced flats and railway arches, but there you go. The efforts of the local breweries have really made a difference, and I’m sure we’ll see more great events and open days in the coming months.

 

Brewdog Manchester

I like to blog about new and interesting places I’ve been to share them to others but I think I sometimes forget the more well-known locations and regular haunts.  Brewdog Manchester falls into both of those categories but as it’s undergone a little rebranding (and a Liverpool bar is being launched this week), it’s probably worth a post.

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I have to say, I was quite late in joining the Brewdog bandwagon. They’re obviously notorious for their attention-grabbing publicity stunts and super strength beers and you do have to tip your hat to their marketing team, but the hype didn’t really appeal to me. But as I’ve become more interested in craft beer, I found myself appreciating what they do a lot more and it looks like I’m not the only one – apparently 1 in every 2,200 beers drunk in the UK is made by Brewdog these days.

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Brewdog Manchester, which opened in 2012, is a well-designed, modern bar. With an industrial theme throughout, it has plenty of seating (including some couches upstairs and a large outdoors area at the front), a large bar, and boards clearly marking what they’ve got on, how much it is and how it’s best served (1/2 , 2/3 etc). There’s also little touches throughout which make it more welcoming – staff recommendations on the walls, wide range of board games and items such as deodorant, hairspray and sanitary products provided for free in the ladies toilets.

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Since our visit to Copenhagen, I have a renewed interest in Brewdog as they stock bottles from Mikkeller. Not only can you drink them there, but you can also take them away with you (I think you get 20 – 30 per cent off). A huge plus point for me! There’s a Peter, Pale and Mary in my fridge as I write this.

Our most recent visit was for one main purpose – India Pale Weizen. I love Weihenstephan and pretty much all things wheat beer so I was very excited to try it. And it was exactly as described – a perfect mix of an IPA and a wheat beer. Definitely recommended from me! Brewdog do aim to push the boundaries and create unique products, and the India Pale Weizen fits well with their ethos.

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So if you’ve not been, do listen to the hype and pop in. Ask the bar staff for their recommendations and explore beers from across their range and beyond (especially Mikkeller!!)