MM’s top five… Manchester breweries

By Sam Richardson

An array of Manchester’s finest ales will be on offer this weekend as the Oldham Beer Festival rolls into town for the 25th time.

Lager remains the most popular beer consumed in England – which leaves us real ale drinkers scratching our heads.

So if you’re going out this weekend, why not try a drink brewed by one of these Manchester breweries, instead of the well-known lagers you probably normally enjoy?

Or even better, head over to the Oldham Beer Festival and sample something different.

JW Lees

JW Lees’ brewery – of Middleton – has been producing JW Lees Bitter for more than 180 years.

The beer – described by locals as an ‘acquired taste’ – was featured in the 2010 book titled 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die. If that doesn’t say ‘drink me’, we don’t know what does.

The company has also joined forces with celebrity chef Marco Pierre White to create The Governor, an International Beer Challenge Bronze Award Winner.

Opened by John Lees in 1828, JW Lees has been passed down the family and is now up to the sixth generation.

Manchester Marble Beers Ltd

Vegans cannot enjoy ale as much as the rest of us, and with this in mind Manchester Marble Beers Ltd brews strictly vegan ales.

The company began brewing in 1997 when owner Vance Debechval and manager Mark Dade decided that independent brewing would aid the survival of The Marble Arch Inn.

Ginger Marble, a regular ale brewed by the company, was nominated for 2006 ‘Best Vegetarian Pint’ by The Vegetarian Society.

It’s fearsome stuff, with fiery ginger and even notes of coriander and cloves, but if you like your ale with a twist, this is for you.

Boggart Hole Clough Brewery

Based in North Manchester, Boggart Hole Clough Brewery is a Micro-brewery, established in 2000.

Boggart beers have made an appearance in more than 500 pubs and clubs, with beers sold regularly in Manchester, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria and North Wales.

Cascade – described by Boggarts as ‘a bitter hoppy session ale made with an abundance of cascade hops,’ was the winner of Manchester Food and Drink Festival Best Beer in 2010/11.

Another award winning beer is Boggart Rum Porter – Peterborough gold medal winner, Worthing beer of the festival, London drinker beer of the festival 2010/11.


Robinsons Brewery

Unicorn is the name of the main ale brewed by Robinsons – a family run business in Stockport.

It has been brewed since 1896 and is an award winning ale, including Gold Medal Winner at the Brewing Industry International Awards.

Robinson’s boast what they deem ‘the world’s best ale’… Old Tom. First brewed in in 1899, Old Tom has been named by CAMRA as Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain three times, at the National Winter Ales Festival.

Old Tom isn’t for the faint-hearted – it’s a whopping 8.5%, with a dark, port wine-like finish and heaps of rich malty flavours. There’s a reason it’s touted as the world’s finest though – as it manages to balance bold chocolate and smoky flavours seamlessly. Plus, you can it in most supermarkets now.

Joseph Holts

In 1860 Joseph Holt purchased a brewery site in Cheetham, and around this time he started to produce Joseph Holt’s Bitter, which is still sold today.

Nowadays the company offers a range of cask Ales.

Joseph Holt’s Black was recently awarded Bronze by the International Brewing Awards in the dark beer category. The beer is described by the company as a ‘smooth drinking very dark beer with complex roasted malt aroma and taste.’

Two Hoots is Holts’ newest edition to the cask variety and was the regional winner of Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt, and a Gold Medal winner at The Brussels Beer Challenge.

For lager drinkers, the company brews Crystal Lager, Crystal Gold and Diamond Lager. Crystal Lager won Gold at the International Brewing Awards. So there’s something for everyone if you’re still a little scared of the dark!

The Oldham Beer Festival will take place this Friday and Saturday, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, West Street, Oldham. It will be open from 12pm until 10:30pm.

Picture courtesy of The Grice is right, with thanks.

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