When most folks travel to the U.K., they have one city in mind: London. Look, we get it. England’s capital has an amazing beer culture, from the historic pubs to the twenty-first-century trailblazers like The Kernel and Anspach & Hobday (look out for more on that next week). But just a quick two-hour train ride north takes you to Manchester, where you’ll find a city as passionate about its beer as its football (soccer to us Americans).

Perhaps Paul Jones, founder of Cloudwater, said it best when we sat down with him: “There is a bit of swagger about Manchester,” which comes from working so hard but also not taking itself too seriously.

According to Jones, Manchester is almost like the best of both worlds. “The place in the U.K. where, from the oldest, largest, and longest-standing brewery to the most internationally renowned, you’ve got it all here,” he says. And nowhere else can make that claim.”

“Manchester is like a choose-your-own-adventure,” Matthew Curtis, beer writer extraordinaire and founder of The Pellicle, explained to me as I sipped on a SoCal in Cloudwater’s airy, bright second-floor taproom. “Do you want modern? Do you want trad? … The quality is high as well. There’s a natural competitiveness to Mancunians, and it’s largely very healthy.”

Curtis first came to Manchester for beer in October 2013 and ended up permanently moving from London to the city four years ago. An avid runner, Curtis would plan his routes around the city just to see different pubs, saying to himself, “I’m going to come and drink in you soon.” And then, he’d find ten more pubs he also wanted to visit along the way.

After writing his first book for the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in 2021, “Modern British Beer,” Curtis says they asked him to write one called the Modern British Pub. Instead, he pitched an idea for a new book in his head: A drinking guide to Manchester.

After twelve months of research (read: lots of drinking) and writing, Curtis published “Manchester’s Best Beer Pubs and Bars.”

With two and a half days to spend in Manchester, I couldn’t think of anyone better to show me around.

What Does Beer Mean in Manchester?

the marble arch pub manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

“I’m convinced that if you were to cut a Mancunian, they would bleed best bitter,” Curtis writes in the first line of his book.

This should tell you a lot about the people of Manchester: They love their beer. The liquid flows through their bloodstream, hearts, and souls.

Creative, working class, and yet cutting edge, Manchester sits on the edge of two worlds. Once a mining and industry town, Manchester morphed into a powerhouse for punk rock music—the birthplace of bands like The Smiths, The Stone Roses, and Oasis. Today, this city sits on the precipice of an investment boom, welcoming young people flocking to the city and big businesses such as Barclays, Amazon, and Google (the only office outside London in the U.K.).

But one common denominator throughout it all?


And not just the best bitters, dark milds, and pale ales themselves. Here, beer transcends the glass. Drinking in Manchester has become a rite of passage, a culture, a daily activity as necessary as breathing.

Pop into a heartwarming pub for lunch and a quick conversation with your buddy, or spend all night spooning pickled eggs into your mouth while laughing over a few rounds near the fireplace.

Words like warm, welcome and cheerful, cordial come to mind.

If you love beer, Manchester should absolutely be a city that you add to your list of must-visits.

While I didn’t have a year to spend in Manchester, for two days, Curtis helped me “research” the best beer pubs, bars, and windows in the wall (literally) to drink, eat, and have an all-around good time.

You don’t have to follow in our footsteps, but use this as a guide. And if you do want to spend more time in Manchester, may we strongly suggest picking up a copy of Curtis’ thoroughly enjoyable guide?


A Quick History of Beer in Manchester

manchester stevenson square northern quarter
Photography courtesy of Wambam Photography

Manchester has always been a beer town. A working-class city through and through, Cottonopolis, as it was once dubbed, made a name for itself in the late eighteenth century as the epicenter of the U.K. cotton industry, textiles, and mines. With more people moving to this thriving industrial city, a wave of pubs quickly followed.

During this time, large-scale operations like Boddingtons also set up shop in Manchester. Although currently owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, Boddingtons once stood tall in the early twentieth century as Manchester’s largest brewery.

At the same time, another type of brewery started popping up—what Mancunians proudly call their “family breweries,” now sixth- or seventh-generation establishments such as Hydes, Joseph Holt, JW Lees, and Robinsons that brought modern beer to Manchester. Thriving during the Industrial Revolution, these family breweries, most importantly, survived a period of intense consolidation in the mid-twentieth century. Perhaps another sign of the people of Manchester’s stubborn will for survival. Today, you can find pubs from each of the big four still sprinkled through Greater Manchester and downtown.

After a brief stint of microbreweries coming and going throughout the 1980s, one particular decision from one particular brewery changed the course of beer in Manchester (and perhaps largely the rest of the U.K.) forever.

As Curtis describes in his book, in 1997, Jan Rogers, who ran the Marble Arch pub, had to do something to increase foot traffic. The choice? Either start a karaoke night or a brewery.

“Thankfully, she decided on the latter,” writes Curtis, noting she installed a five-barrel system in the pub’s back room. “Marble’s influence on Manchester’s beer culture cannot be overstated: not merely for the excellent beers it has continued to produce over its 25-year-plus history, but for the sheer number of now-prestigious brewers who began their careers there, each of them helping to define modern British beer culture in their own small way.”

Those like James Campbell, who co-founded Cloudwater and then his own spot, Sureshot, both of which represent the modern age of beer in Manchester.

Starting in the early 2010s, a smattering of craft breweries hit Manchester—Cloudwater, most notably, followed by Track, Balance, and Sureshot.

Today, Manchester continues to straddle the line between classic and contemporary. As we walked from pub to pub, Curtis often pointed out the city’s original architecture alongside towering glassy skyrises.

But gentrification hasn’t stripped Manchester’s soul. At its heart, this proud town staunchly defends its right to drink. Whether that’s a Timothy Taylor’s Landlord at the oldest pub in the city, a 3.8% Marble Mild at The Marble Arch, or a SoCal at Cloudwater.

And if we haven’t convinced you yet that Manchester is a drinking city worth visiting, well, get there for yourself and get into a debate about it with a Mancunian over a pint or two in the pub.

First, How to Get There

Couldn’t be easier. Hop on a train. Most likely, you’ll want to leave from the Euston Station in the heart of London because you can catch an Avanti West Coast train that will take you there with no transfers in as little as two hours. But no matter where you are, you’ll find a route that will get you there in around three hours.

Still worried? When I visited last Easter weekend, the Euston Station was closed for repair work, so I had to take a fairly circuitous route, but I still made it to Manchester in one piece.

If I can do it as someone who I’d call “navigationally challenged,” you can, too.

manchester eastern bloc at stephenson square northern quarter
Photography courtesy of Wambam Photography

Getting Around Manchester

Again, it’s super easy. This is a very walkable city. The metro area is only about 44.6 sq mi (~116 sq km), but the downtown area, where you’ll spend the most time, is even smaller.

I walked everywhere. Albeit, I’m a huge proponent of walking as the best way to see a city.

If you’re not a walker, there is also a tram system that gets you where you need to go quickly and cheaply. About £1-2, depending on where you’re traveling.

Fair warning, though: Places like Cloudwater, Track, Balance, and Sureshot require you to use your legs a bit, and they are about a fifteen-minute jaunt outside of the busy parts of Manchester.

Friday: Best Breweries in Manchester

track brewing taproom
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

We could approach this guide in one or two ways, but we’re going to start you off with the newer side of Manchester first. Prepare to spend a day visiting all the hottest craft breweries in the city. We feel that doing this first will give you even more of an appreciation for what comes next—just our personal preference. If you prefer to spend a day visiting a few of Manchester’s best pubs first, then simply skip down to “Saturday.”

As Curtis said, Manchester is a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure, so this is really up to you!

Breakfast + Coffee: Federal Cafe Bar

9 Nicholas Croft, Manchester M4 1EY, United Kingdom | +441614250974
194 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3ND, United Kingdom | +441618330890
Unit B2 – 2, Circle Square, Oxford Rd, Manchester M1 7FS, United Kingdom | +441619746610

federal cafe granola bowl manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

9:30 AM Ever wondered what an Antipodean breakfast tastes like? – Arguably one of Manchester’s best places to start your day, Federal Cafe features Antipodean brunch (i.e. Australian or New Zealand).

A recent study shows just how popular this cafe has become, highlighting its 1.1 million TikTok views and almost 400,000 annual Google searches (we definitely accounted for one of those!).

Walking into the airy plant-filled Northern Quarter location at 8 a.m., Federal Cafe already bustled. Servers dressed in slick denim aprons walked from table to table, bringing over plates piled high with toasts, granola, and a daily special: Hot Cross Buns Bread Pudding.

Although owned by a Portuguese couple, the breakfast spot focuses squarely on Australian favorites (although you will find some typical Portuguese pastries such as Pastel de nata served, too).

The table next to me ordered the Halloumi and Shrooms, a dish with thick slabs of pan-fried squeaky cheese hidden underneath a duxelles of roasted buttery mushrooms.

Folks behind me tucked into Turkish eggs poached to perfection and lazily floating in a swath of Greek yogurt flanked by chili oil. Two points of toast stood like tall divers on the high platform, waiting silently to jump into the air.

I ordered a long black, essentially an Americano, but with less water, and a granola bowl with fresh strawberries, blueberries, Greek yogurt, and a splash of orange honey.

Great for eavesdropping, Federal constantly hummed with conversation.

Students talked about their exams the next day, City fans animatedly chatted about the upcoming game against Aston Villa.

Almost every plate that I saw return to the kitchen had only crumbs and dried bits of the Fed Sauce, what my server described to me as a spiced tomato sauce.

As I walked outside, the crowd had swelled at the front, and the hostess mentioned it would be at least a thirty-minute wait.

You can’t visit Manchester without grabbing breakfast at Federal Cafe. Just make sure you get there early!

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Bakery: gooey

103 High St, Manchester M4 1HQ, United Kingdom | +447399775196
Warehouse, Ducie St, Manchester M1 2TP, United Kingdom | +447399775196

gooey cookie and carrot juice manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

9:30 AM Cookies bigger than your hand – Located in an unadorned studio, gooey’s neon signs and busy bakers rolling dough are hard to miss as you walk past the floor-to-ceiling windows on High Street.

Unfussy and unpretentious, gooey pumps out dishes that are Instagrammable as hell, from the monster cookies to the uber-popular donuts (assuredly almost all sold out by 11 a.m. daily) to the foot-high French toast dishes lining up in the pass like a developing townhouse complex.

The house brioche with crème patissiere, Dulce de leche, maple syrup, and salted butter definitely appeared to be a favorite.

But since I’d already had breakfast, I just wanted to grab a cookie for later, which I can report back was indeed very gooey.

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Shop at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre and Afflecks

MCDC: 17 Oak St, Manchester M4 5JD, United Kingdom | +441618324274
Afflecks: 52 Church St, Manchester M4 1PW, United Kingdom | +441618390718

afflecks manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

10:30 AM Find something unique – Located in the Northern Quarter, considered a fiercely independent hipster haven overflowing with street art, galleries, cafés, bars, and restaurants, the Manchester Craft and Design Centre and Afflecks provide two great opportunities to buy something totally unique from Manchester.

The Manchester Craft and Design Centre features studios from independent designers and craft makers. You’ll find thirty individual spaces featuring everything from ceramics and pottery to knits, prints, jewelry, and clothes.

Affleck’s gives you grittier, vintage thrifting. Stalls here sell things like Dragon Ball Z trading cards, smoking paraphernalia, handmade cosmetics, old movie posters, heavy metal band t-shirts, and, of course, records. Get lost amongst the floors and find something that tickles your fancy.

Manchester Craft and Design Centre


Lunch: Fat Pat’s

88 Portland St, Manchester M1 4GX, United Kingdom

fat pats manchester eggplant muffaletta
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

12:00 PM Best sandwiches you’ll ever find in a trashy alley – You have a pretty packed afternoon ahead, so load up on the carbs before you hit the beers. Probably one of my favorite places I ate while in Manchester, Fat Pat’s doesn’t have flash. You will wait in a tiny alley next to a couple of smelly dumpsters giving off odors similar to the New York Subway during rush hour after a snowstorm. All for one guy in chef pants to stick his head outside a tiny white window and yell your name.

While you might think you’re crazy, stick with it because every once in a while, you’ll get a whiff of fryer oil or the sound of knives chopping and meat sizzling. And you’ll know that, with a little bit of patience, you’ll be rewarded with a terrific sandwich. You’ll know because people crowd the alley constantly during lunchtime, and an endless line of drivers on Deliveroo bikes huddle around the window in the wall waiting to fulfill orders.

fat pats takeaway window manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

“Are you in the queue?” someone asked me. “Nope, I ordered ahead,” I responded.

I highly recommend you do the same; otherwise, the wait could be pretty long.

Once I gleefully heard “Grace” called, I grabbed my brown paper bag and jetted across the street. I found a little ledge to balance on and tore into my Eggplant Muffaletta.

Taking one bite of this sandwich, I knew I would polish every last bit. A textbook of texture, pillowy yet toasted bread gave way to crispy yet plush eggplant. A sweetness from balsamic vinegar and roasted red pepper complemented a peppery bite from the arugula.

I crushed that sandwich next to the pigeons, who plucked at my crumbs as they tumbled down my shirt and into the street. A messy dusting of semolina flour stuck to the corners of my mouth, coating my hands and face for everyone on the street to see as they passed me. The sandwich may have looked like it ate me, but I didn’t care one bit.

I reveled in my sandwich halo.

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Track Brewing

Unit 18, Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester M1 2NP, United Kingdom | +441615363975

track brewing beer board manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

1:30 PM An epic bike trip that inspired an epic brewery – When Track Brewing Founder Sam Dyson decided to visit his uncle in California, he didn’t fly there. Oh no. Instead, the kid who used to spend hours cycling around little lanes in the countryside decided to bike across the entire country. Starting in Virginia, Dyson cycled all the way to Washington, making his way down into California to where his uncle lived in Novato, a town just on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The six-month cycling trip changed Dyson’s life. “I just kept on going and going,” he shared with me as I sat in his office at the brewery about a twenty-minute walk outside of downtown Manchester. Dyson cycled around the entire world from Mexico down through Central America, Colombia down to the bottom of Argentina, around Australia, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia, through the ‘Stans,’ as he called them—Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan—through Georgia, Turkey, and back to Europe.

The journey quickly developed a common theme.

“Beer effectively became the thing that drove the whole trip,” explains Dyson, who wanted to bring back the American-style hoppy pales and IPAs he drank on the trip to England.

While camping at night, “you’d have a couple of bottles of beer and chat with people,” he says.

Despite cycling 35,000 miles through a number of countries Dyson can’t even recall off the top of his head (we checked later: it was at least twenty-five), the brewery owner fell in love with an area called Sonoma in Northern California, full of mountains, forests, and vineyards. “It was just quite magical,” he reminisced. “I could cycle for an entire day and not come across anybody at all, and you’d be above the cloud line, look back down, and you were looking at the beach and everything covered in fog. It felt like being in a totally different world.”

When Dyson finally returned to the U.K., he went into beer full-time, working at breweries around London. In 2014, he opened his own 2,000-sq-ft brewery in a tiny arch underneath the Manchester Piccadilly station.

“We were just a tiny 2,000-liter brewery …at the end of an arch,” says Stefan Melbourne, Events & Creative Manager for Track, who started working at the brewery about four months after it opened. “We felt like a new wave of brewery, which was really exciting to be a part of because, at that time, Sam was just producing hoppy cask ale.”

Like Sonoma, the second beer Dyson ever made.

An homage to his magical time cycling in Northern California, Sonoma has become a signature for Track. Dyson reflects proudly on the 3.8% ABV Mosaic dry-hopped pale ale that also has Citra and Centennial; this one always sticks in his mind.

Actually, in most people’s minds at Track (there’s a joke in there about a one-track mind, isn’t there?).

And for a person from NorCal over 5,000 miles from home, the story and beer resonated with me.

“The whole point of that beer was supposed to be really easy drinking, really citrusy, light, but have depths of flavor. I don’t know,” Dyson looked off into the distance. “But then Sonoma County is just the light there and the colors of the can, I like this red and this orange and yellow. To me, it just had that. That’s what that place reminded me of.”

Ironic since most people have no idea where Sonoma is, much less what it’s like. Dyson jokes that people mispronounce and misspell the name all the time.

But it doesn’t matter.

And that’s the theme at Track: beers born from adventure off the beaten track. Originally, Dyson said he named every beer Track brewed after a place he cycled through or a feature that meant something to him, such as a mountain range or lake.

Although originally only brewing beers on cask, Track eventually expanded. Today, you’ll find some of their highest-rated beers are massive imperial, barrel-aged stouts. “Which are fantastic beers,” Dyson notes. “They’re the ones that you would think that the brewery is really closely associated with. But actually, it’s this 3.8% pale ale.”

Sonoma on cask is the beer brewers like Jeff Bagby from the former Bagby Beer Co., Sam Richardson, co-founder of Other Half, and all the guys from Fonta Flora would stand around drinking when they visited. “All these amazing world-class brewers were standing around this dingy little thing drinking this beer we made,” Dyson recalls.

Melbourne says that still to this day, whenever American brewers visit, “we give them a can of Sonoma, and they say, ‘Oh my god, this is great. I wish we could do this!’”

For that reason, “It’s the beer that built us,” says Melbourne as he showed me around the new taproom Track moved into in May 2021.

After six years of collabs and creations in the cramped location, Track moved to its new 12,000-sq-ft warehouse on Piccadilly Trading Estate. The gorgeous taproom—what Melbourne calls Track’s “jewel in the crown,” looks more like one you’d typically find in the U.S. The focal point, a huge rainbow-tinged beer board, helps you drink your way across the board from Tessellate table beer to Halftime Horseman, an English brown ale on cask that happens to be Melbourne’s current favorite. “It’s this beautiful balance of sweet malt and toasty biscuit,” he says. “Just a really almost like nostalgic beer.”

With twenty-three taps in all, there’s something for everyone.

But you should absolutely start with Sonoma on cask.

There’s nothing quite like it in the world. Just like there is no brewery quite like Track in the world. Dyson would know. He’s literally made tracks all around the world.

However you get to Track, whether by plane, train, automobile, foot, or pedal, just make sure you get there.

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Cloudwater Brew Co.

Piccadilly Trading Estate, Unit 9, Gidding Rd, Manchester M1 2NP, United Kingdom

cloudwater v17 series bottles manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

3:00 PM The brewery that put Manchester on the map – A hop, skip, and a pedal (not even) down the street from Track, you’ll find Cloudwater. Perhaps the craft brewery that put Manchester on the modern map, Cloudwater stays humble to this day.

I spent a few hours talking with Cloudwater’s founder, Paul Jones, and he talked more about his lofty goals to continue building Manchester’s and the U.K.’s craft beer industry than he did about the brewery itself.

So I’ll say it for Jones. In just nine years, Cloudwater has gained more accolades than any other European brewery in the craft space. This Manchester-based brewery is probably one of the most recognized international breweries in the U.S.

“We’ve managed to gain a real loyal place in a lot of beer drinkers’ hearts,” Jones told me.

But that didn’t happen by simply snapping some fingers. Jones hustled.

He took the idea of a brewery in the U.K.—a small number of beers, little creativity, not much experimenting—and threw it into the clouds.

“We blew the barn doors off,” he says. “I think we set out to be entirely different from almost every other brewery in the U.K.”

Inspired by the beers he drank in the States, Jones started Cloudwater in 2016 to make massive headway in the marketplace for two things: hazy beer and double IPAs. Pretty unheard of in the U.K. at the time.

Beers like SoCal, now a staple for Cloudwater.

“It’s just so easy to drink,” says Jones, who admits he has now visited somewhere between 100-120 breweries on the West Coast. “It is a beer made in the image of a lot of what I’ve personally drank.”

The goal became a pursuit of perfecting those hoppy American beers in the U.K.

Named after a Japanese term that means to search for the truth or to search for education, Cloudwater approached brewing differently.

They experimented. At one point, Jones says they had eighteen different yeast strains in eighteen different fermenters. They tried various styles of beer, putting out new releases and one-offs.

“You won’t find another craft brewery in Europe that produces more styles of beer than us any year that we’ve been in production,” says Jones proudly. “And I don’t think you’ll ever find that any year that we’re in production in the future.”

And, of course, they collaborated.

Name a legendary brewery in the U.S. and there’s probably a seventy-five to eighty percent chance that Cloudwater has brewed with them.

Jones says he doesn’t have an exact figure, but “there have been hundreds of beers made at this point.”

He had to be brave enough to leverage the opportunities coming his way. “We just kept saying yes to things that were scary,” he shares. Like bringing Cloudwater to Modern Times Festival of Dankness. “The beer made a really big impression.”

Sometimes, they succeeded. Sometimes, they failed. But Jones always came home with new ideas to improve the beer. “We went toe to toe with folks we thought were light years ahead, and then eventually, folks that we thought we were getting to be on the same level with.”

What keeps Cloudwater going almost a decade later? They never consider themselves experts. Instead, as their name implies, they’re always reaching for the stars and willing to learn something new.

And you all get the easy part: drinking in all their successes and quests for perfection.

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Balance Brewing & Blending

10 Sheffield St, Manchester M1 2ND, United Kingdom

balance brewing and blending table beer manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

4:30 PM Amazing saisons and wild ales – At Balance, I drank probably the best saison I’ve had in a long time. Manchester’s (and really one of the U.K.’s) only wild ale breweries, Balance takes its name to heart. Co-founders James Horrock and Will Harris only make mixed-culture ales fermented and produced in barrels with wild yeast like lactobacillus.

But while the flavors can ping pong around your mouth like one of Forrest Gump’s table tennis matches, the last sip always returns you to equilibrium.

No beer showcases this better than Saison De Maison, a bretted saison the pair brewed as their first-ever beer and aged in twenty-four barrels in a corner of a now-defunct brewery called Manchester Brewing Company.

Now on their sixth iteration, Horrock said they’re trying to dial in a final edition to serve as their house beer.

“It’s basically just a blend of a few different barrels of saison,” said Horrock. “Generally, we’re going for a medium to low acid profile; dry hopped with various British hops for each blend.”

The current version has a base malt of sixty percent Maris Otter and forty percent wheat, along with U.K. Chinook and Bramling Cross hops, which Horrock says is a shoo-in for the final blend. “It’s got this curranty fruit character.”

But it’s another fruit that punches through—pineapple, a flavor Horrock repeatedly told me he aimed for in this beer.

“I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been talking about it so much, but it feels like the most pineapple one I’ve ever smelled,” he said excitedly. “The pineapple is crazy in there; It’s absolutely the note we desperately wanted!”

The current hit me like an electric shock: pineapple, pineapple, pineapple. But nothing out of whack. The beer didn’t roast in the back of my throat with acidity or hollow out my cheeks with zippiness. The quaffable beer is probably one of the best saisons I’ve tried in a long time.

But when you visit, you also need to try whatever one-off bottle they have available. Working often with foraged or locally sourced ingredients, the two-man operation perhaps madly creates beers like a farmhouse ale with samphire, a sea vegetable they found in an estuary in Wirral, about thirty to forty miles away.

Or pineapple weed and mugwort, a bit of a “happy coincidence,” as Horrock tells it, that they found on one of their foraging walks. “There was just a lot around, and it has this coconutty dill-tasting notes. So coconut and pineapple seemed to make a lot of sense.”

What they can’t find themselves, they source around the area. Horrock’s favorite beer he’s ever made, called Fool’s Gold, included British apricots. “It really felt like a statement beer for us,” he told me when I visited.

While Horrock couldn’t get his hands on any of the fruit this year, he did manage to rustle up two varieties of mushrooms from a local producer, Polyspore.

The pair steeped a kilo of dried Lion’s Mane and Freckled Chestnut mushrooms in a 100-liter batch to make a mushroom saison, which then spent nine to twelve months in barrels.
“The idea was exploring umami in beer,” he said. “It was pretty wild.”
No matter how far Horrock and Harris stretch the boundaries of beer and our imaginations, every batch comes back to one word.

“It’s kind of in the name,” said Horrock. “We want the beers to be balanced.”

Horrock paused, thought for a second, and revised. “We want to make funky, complex, acidic beer that is balanced.”

Quite simply, this is one of the U.K.’s most stunning breweries. And as Curtis wrote to me in an email, “I urge you not to miss it!”

I’m so happy that I didn’t.

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Sureshot Brewing

5 Sheffield St, Manchester M1 2ND, United Kingdom

sureshot brewing helles manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

6:00 PM A good time will be a sure thing – There may be no person more influential to the modern age of beer in Manchester than James Campbell. Born in the Black Country, Campell started making cask ale in the 1990s. As the head brewer at Marble Beers for thirteen years, Campbell is credited with bringing a new wave of beer to British brewing. “I’ve worked with pretty much everybody,” he told me as I sipped my way through Sureshot’s ten taps (seriously, Campbell just kept generously pouring me beers).

Often regarded as sort of like the grandfather of pioneering New World styles in the U.K., Campbell went on to co-found Cloudwater where he told me he helped brew at least the first 500 recipes over three or four years. “Well, 499 because Katie Pietsch, who’s now in Switzerland, did one recipe,” he chuckled.

That’s Campell to a T. A legend in his own right but humble as the pie-like sour I drank in front of me.

In 2022, Campbell opened Sureshot, a mere ten-minute walk, if that, from the current Cloudwater taproom.

At Sureshot, you’ll find Campbell’s brewing prowess on full display: hoppy IPAs, clean lagers, and easy-drinking pale ales. Plus, just whatever the f**k Campbell wants to brew.

“We know we can sell IPAs, DDH IPAs. That’s something we can do well. Got a lot of experience in that thing,” he said with a small smile, plopping one down in front of me.

Propane & Propane Accessories, a diesel-fueled hazy with Galaxy T90, Nelson Sauvin T90, Mosaic BBC & Cryo. All the milky, chewy thickness you could want peppered with explosions of tropical pineapple, guava, golden cherry, and white peach.

But you’ll also find porters like Dog & Horse At the Oatcake Shop or lagers like a helles that Campebell’s super stoked about called You Know the Rules & So Do I. “How does this compare to helles you find in the States?” he asked me, pouring me a full glass. “Pretty damn good,” I responded.

My favorite, though, has become something of a staple for Sureshot: Small Man’s Wetsuit. I could crush that pale ale all day long.

I asked Campbell for the beer he’s most proud of. He named an ESB collab they did with Fullers. “It was our worst-selling,” he laughed. “But it had so much complexity and balance. I mean, I don’t think a lot about ESBs. Not many people do, but it had a fruity minerality to it that I would look for in that beer. So it had a body in depth, but it still had that mineral dryness. … But It had sweetness, and it had aroma. It’s what I call a cheese beer.”

“A cheese beer?” I questioned.

“Yeah, basically, it goes well with any cheese!”

When I asked him the name of the beer, he thought about it, “I think it was 720, I don’t remember … because we’ve probably made about 180 beers here!”

Which I believe, considering during our time chatting, Campbell just kept placing all the different styles in front of me.

With bright neon signs, wooden tables, and bright orange and mint green rimmed chairs, Sureshot gleams and beckons you inside.

Do the right thing and walk inside. You won’t be disappointed!

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Check-In: YOTEL Manchester Deansgate

2 John Dalton St, Manchester M3 2NW, United Kingdom

yotel manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

7:30 PM Where funky meets comfy – Funky and kooky with lots of loud, bright colors and floral prints, YOTEL feels like the world’s coolest museum gift shop that you get to sleep in at night.

In the lobby, you’ll find black busts with white words stamped across them, “We are here not because we are lawbreakers. We are here because we’re lawmakers.” Knick knacks like golden astronauts reminiscent of the MTV Movie Awards sit on shelves, and George O’Keefe-like wallpaper wraps around the entire first floor, encasing tan felt booths and alcoves to sit with a drink and talk. Ox heads jut out of the walls, and mirrors abound, making the space feel intimate and yet spacious.

You’ll also find an easy time-saving check-in kiosk that made getting to my room a breeze (no lines here).

The rooms themselves have that Brooklyn-esque feel, with everything compactly and comfortably presented for a good night’s rest.

Here’s a morning perk: Each floor has its own self-serve coffee station, meaning you can load up on caffeine for free every day.

Little touches like that made YOTEL the perfect place for me to rest my head at night after a long day of walking and drinking around Manchester.

Pro Tip: You get a free drink with purchase in the MOTLEY bar downstairs that stocks tons of local draft beer, including its own MOTLEY lager, and fifteen percent off when you order with your key card

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Dinner: Maray

14 Brazennose St, Manchester M2 6LW, United Kingdom | +441513470214

maray manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

8:00 PM Middle Eastern sharing plates – While in grad school in a Food Studies program at NYU, I had the opportunity to travel to Paris for two weeks, studying the unique foodways of one of Europe’s most historic cities. At the end of the two weeks, we had to put together a presentation on one of the neighborhoods. I chose Le Marais, a district known for its Middle Eastern cuisine, especially falafel. Inspired by that very section of the city, Maray offers delicious Middle Eastern dishes for sharing.

Those like the show-stopping Disco Cauliflower, a recommendation from our waiter that came out with the white vegetable piled high with chermoula, harissa, yogurt, tahini, pomegranate, parsley, and almonds. Dare we call this dish a dance party in our mouths?

With a recommended three to four dishes to share amongst a couple of people, we also ordered the warm pita, halloumi with zaalouk (a stewed eggplant dip) and pomegranate molasses, and falafel plate.

All excellent, all fun to eat, all a party on the plate.

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Saturday: Best Beer Pubs in Manchester

the city arms pub manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

From the new-school to the old-school, today we’re taking you to some of our favorite craft beer bars and pubs in Manchester. We hope you like cask ale!

Breakfast: Pot Kettle Black

Barton Arcade, Manchester M3 2BW, United Kingdom
Pot kettle black Angel Gardens, 1 Rochdale Rd, Manchester M4 4GE, United Kingdom | +441615038580

pot kettle black manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

9:00 AM Coffee + carbs first – With a couple of locations to choose from and a cheeky name, Pot Kettle Black gives you laidback breakfast vibes with buzzy brunch dishes.

Start with some of the city’s best coffee served in their now-famous red cups. Move on to trying to choose between savory or sweet on the menu.

The savory side has dishes like Turkish Eggs, poached and placed on top of garlic-whipped yogurt, pistachio dukkah, chili agave, and sourdough toast. Or the PKB Brekkie, the cafe’s take on a traditional English breakfast with Olde-English sausage, streaky smoked bacon, poached eggs, PKB beans, button mushrooms, black pudding, and house sourdough toast.

On the sweet side, find things like Blueberry Crumble Croissant French Toast, a decadent combination of lemon mascarpone, blueberry, and thyme compote on top of thick egg-washed slabs. Or Toasted Strawberry Banana Bread with Biscoff, ricotta, macerated strawberries, and dark chocolate soil.

Whichever side you choose, you’ll enjoy Manchester brunching at its best.

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Paramount Books

25-27 Shudehill, Manchester M4 2AF, United Kingdom | +441618349509

paramount books manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

10:30 AM Hidden treasure – There are five B’s I look for when I travel: beer, bakeries, beans (i.e. coffee), botanical gardens, and books. Normally, I search for a good library or bookshop to visit, but Paramount Books, in particular, I literally stumbled upon.

Good thing I did because I learned later from Visit Manchester’s Communications Assistant Adriana Da Silva that the place has erratic hours, often open only when it wants and mostly just on Saturday and Sunday.

Walking inside, you are hit with that wet page smell that can only come from books that have spent a good amount of time in an attic or basement. I loved it!

Shelves stuffed with old, yellowed Agatha Christie novels and Ian Fleming’s James Bond books on cassette tape.

In the back, stacks of comics piled from the floor to the ceiling.

Signs on the shelves said things like “Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle, Please Ask!” “Switch off mobile phones,” and “Please keep the books in order.”

A true treasure. If you’re a bibliophile or even just a casual reader, hit Paramount Books.

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Lunch: The Marble Arch

73 Rochdale Rd, Manchester M4 4HY, United Kingdom | +441618325914

the marble arch pub marble beers dark mild manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

12:00 PM Slanted floors and cask ales – No, you’re not drunk yet. Yes, the floor does slope. But it’s also covered in beautiful mosaic tile with Easter egg blue flowers with green leaves and pink petals. Curtis explained to me that, although the pub’s building has been around since 1888, its current owner, Jan Rogers, restored the bar much later, revealing original brickwork underneath that you can see now.

The Arch, as it’s called, might be one of the most important and historic watering holes in Manchester. An institution, the pub started brewing its own beer back in 1997, bringing a new wave of British beer to Manchester.

It’s that combination of history and humanity that makes Marble a city favorite.

Every time a double-decker yellow bus (iconic to Manchester according to Matt; London has red, and Manchester recently got yellow) zips by, the wood warps and groans, and the door creaks.

Dark wood tables and booths with plush red velvet seats or high-back army green booths capture sound, giving the Arch a pleasant hum during our afternoon visit.

Across six hand pulls, you’ll mostly find Marble’s own beers.

I enjoyed a Marble Bitter and Marble Mild, which drank like a dark roast coffee with cocoa nibs, smooth and drinkable

We suggest you eat lunch at the Arch because, after installing a kitchen in 2009, the food from this pub is banging.

May we suggest a cheese board big enough to feed four?

You could just while away an entire afternoon here and be happy.

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Café Beermoth

Brown St, Manchester M2 1DA, United Kingdom | +441618352049

cafe beermouth pub manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

2:00 PM Possibly Manchester’s best beer bar – This isn’t your typical pub. Although, if you ask Curtis whether he considers the glass-walled drink emporium a bar or a pub, he’ll think about it for a second before recalling what defines a pub—the beer and the people.

For Curtis, Café Beermoth is his favorite in Manchester because of the people as much as the beer. He loves how much the Café Beermoth team cares about beer, going out of their way to build relationships. According to him, this is how they’ve been able to get the best beer.

Like excellent casks—numbers six through twelve on the menu above the bar—along with a line dedicated to Belgian beer (number seventeen, which when we visited was Brasserie de la Senne Zinnebir) and rare beers like Jester King Spon 3 Year Blend.

For all these reasons, Café Beermoth is the place to be in Manchester.

When we first walked in, Curtis ran into a friend just popping in for a drink between matches at a local snooker tournament at Manchester Central.

A new brewery owner he’d been emailing with also stopped in, dropping off a six-pack of beers for Curtis to try.

As I sipped on my Blackjack Pub Ale Best Bitter, Curtis popped up and walked to the bar. “Oh, I haven’t even shown you the bottle list yet!” he exclaimed.

cafe beermouth pub bottles and cans list manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

A huge list includes beers from the U.S. like 3 Sons Fractional BA Cake, Garden Path, Forest & Main, and Jester King Nocturnal Chrysalis and Viridium, among others.

Per Jones’ suggestion earlier in the day, we also tried beer from a one-man band brewery called Donzoko.

The so-dubbed Northern Helles drank very fruity for a helles but with a lingering buttery cracker.

“This might be the best-tasting batch,” Curtis told me.

Elegance and class but with a touch of homey humility, Cafe Beermoth brings the best beers to Manchester with an unpretentious aim: just drinking damn good beer.

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The City Arms

46-48 Kennedy St, Manchester M2 4BQ, United Kingdom | +441612364610

the city arms pub manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

4:00 PM Possibly Manchester’s best beer pub – Curtis calls The City Arms his favorite pub in Manchester. “I love the City Arms,” he writes in his book. “In fact, such is my fondness for this superb traditional local that I will often find myself making excuses to visit, even if I happen to be on completely the other side of town.”

Unassuming on the outside, opening the door just a smidgen on a late afternoon is like dropping the needle on a record; conversation wafts out endlessly.

When Curtis and I snaked our way into the packed pub in the early evening, Curtis couldn’t help suggesting we get ourselves a couple of pickled eggs at the bar.

They pull one out of a jar and hand one to you with the choice to dab on hot sauce. We swallowed ours in one go before ordering pints of Cloudwater’s Piccadilly Porter from the selection of eight hand pulls.

Somehow, we managed to squeeze into a table in the back, where Curtis spent the next hour trying to explain to me the rules of cricket.

The City Arms might not have a distinct feature like the sloped floor of The Marble Arch or slick bright yellow bricks like Peveril of the Peak, but you can sink into any one of the maroon leather seats and eventually become a part of the furniture. Which many locals have.

“The best pub in Manchester?” Curtis asks in his book. “Probably.”

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Dinner: Bundobust Brewery

St James’s Bldg, Bundobust Brewery, 61-69 Oxford St, Manchester M1 6EQ, United Kingdom | +441615118601
61 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 2AG, United Kingdom | +441613596757

bundobust manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

6:00 PM Indian small plates and craft beer – For our last stop of the night, Curtis took me to Bundobust, nd all-vegetarian Indian sharing plates spot that also happens to brew its own beer.

I remember the beer we ordered, CHAITRO, a 5% ABV nitro chai porter with roast malts, chai masala, and fresh ginger.

Curtis took the lead on ordering food, so while I can’t exactly recall everything we ate, I can tell you that it was all delicious and an excellent way to cap off our pub hopping.

That’s Bundobust: the perfect place to soak up the booze and yet also get one more for the night.

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Nitecap: Peveril of the Peak

61 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 2AG, United Kingdom | +441613596757

Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

8:00 PM A Manchester institution. IYKYK – Arguably Manchester’s most distinctive pub, this Grade II-listed pub dates back to the 1820s, and it smells like it with smoke sunk into every crevice. You’re not getting fancy beer here.

You want to order either a Timothy Taylor’s Landlord or a plum porter.

Everyone from families drinking together to students talking about their latest debauchery in Paris to old regulars that the bartender George talks to on a first-name basis, crowded into the red velvet, stained glass pub.

Sit and soak in the English accents, get some salt and vinegar crisps for the table, and work your way through a pint or two.

Sunday: Bakeries + One More Beer

pollen bakery manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Put on your walking shoes and walk about fifteen minutes north of YOTEL to find an unassuming neighborhood chock-full of bakeries. Plus, a stop on the way for pie and coffee because it’s Sunday, and you’re on vacation!

Pie + Coffee: Idle Hands Coffee

35 Dale St, Manchester M1 2HF, United Kingdom | +447966145651

idle hands coffee and pie key lime pie
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

9:00 AM Who said you can’t have pie for breakfast? – A suggestion straight from Curtis, Idle Hands does two things really well: pie and coffee. Breakfast of champions? Hey, you’re on vacation.

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Bakeries: The Flat Baker + Companio + Pollen Bakery

The Flat Baker: 23 Radium St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6AY, United Kingdom
Companio: 35 Radium St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6AD, United Kingdom
Pollen: Cotton Field Wharf, 8 New Union St, Manchester M4 6FQ, United Kingdom

the flat baker manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

10:30 AM Treats and treasures – Don’t you love it when you find on your Google map that some of the city’s best bakeries all fall pretty much on the same street as each other?

Start at The Flat Baker, known for its Instagrammable croissants and cruffins, a mash-up between the former and a muffin, in kooky flavors.

The Flat Baker

companio bakery manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Amble a block down to Companio, where you should get any of the crackly croissants for now, and the MadBrød (a slab of bread stuffed with potatoes and cheese) for later. Perfect for soaking up any alcohol.


pollen bakery manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

End at Pollen (you’ll need to cross a bridge and walk alongside the canal a bit), where you can actually sit down and enjoy some slammin’ sourdough and Viennoiserie.

Pollen Bakery

Port Street Beer House

39-41 Port St, Manchester M1 2EQ, United Kingdom | +441612379949

port street beer house pub manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

11:00 AM One more beer! – You’ve got time for one more beer, right? Because you don’t want to miss Port Street Beer House. In his book, Curtis calls this a modern beer institution—one that showed “British beer had well and truly arrived in Manchester,” he writes.

Port Street’s seven cask handles and ten draft lines feature mostly local, independent breweries.

Such as a Blindfold Off best bitter from Chapter Brewing in Runcorn, a Trochi hazy pale from Squawk in Manchester, or a High Seas export porter from Black Iris in Nottingham.

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Lunch: Mackie Mayer

Smithfield Market Hall, 1 Eagle St, Manchester M4 5BU, United Kingdom | +441611111111

mackie mayor manchester
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

12:30 PM Not your requisite food hall – Walk a full 360 around Mackie Mayer, and you could confuse it for an abandoned warehouse. I know I sure did.

Oh, wait, it is. Well, actually an old Victorian meat market, just minus the abandoned part now.

Open up the door on Eagle Street and all of a sudden, everything makes sense.

Absolutely gorgeous inside, thanks to a space reimagined by the folks who designed the award-winning Altrincham Market and Market House, Mackie Mayer buzzed at lunchtime.

With seven different stalls offering everything from tacos to pizza to chicken sandwiches, the cosmopolitan food hall in an 1858 Grade II-listed market building has something for everyone.

Find yourself an open spot, hit the QR code to order whatever you want, then sit back and people watch until your food and drinks arrive.

The merging of old and new, Mackie Mayer perfectly encapsulates Manchester, making it a great place to end your forty-eight-plus hours in this city.

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