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How Great Beer Ruined Everything (A Manchester pub crawl summary)

I have a problem with Manchester at the moment. Over the past year my beer standards have increased dramatically. I no longer seem content with a “decent pint of ale” anywhere. I expect brilliance.

I’ve noticed it now when I go to Leeds. Where I used to have a list of around fifteen places I enjoyed, now I’m only interested in visiting two of them. I’ve noticed it in Huddersfield. Where I used to roam around seven or eight different establishments, now I feel any drink that’s not in The Grove a little inferior. But I am a Manchester lad mainly…

Last weekend I went for a pub/bar crawl around Manchester. These have been infrequent of late thanks to one bar – Port Street Beer House. “Where shall we go for beers?” one of us would say. “Port Street of course,” would say another. And nobody could come up with any reason why we shouldn’t. And to be honest, why WOULD you go elsewhere in Manchester at the minute?

But, through gritted teeth, last week I said no to Port Street as we would be down the Oxford Road and Deansgate area and I suggested we toured the zone, with it housing some great bars and pubs at one time.

And it still does, in that department, not a lot has changed. The Lass O’Gowrie, Sand Bar, Odder, The Temple, Rain Bar, Peveril of the Peak, Briton’s Protection, Cask, The Deansgate and Knott Bar were all visited on our tour. Great places with decent beer and some of them were once personal favourites.

And they HAVEN’T changed, which is precisely the problem. Now they are a little dated. There is more for them to discover. Sure, I’ve always enjoyed Sand Bar’s choices of Helles or Weissbiers on draft. And yes, The Temple’s examples of foreign pilsners have often proved a good break-up to a night out. I’m sure there will still be occasion when this is just what I fancy. But now I want more. And now they could provide so much more.

Why are we suffering from tame, European beer that was last interesting in 2003? Why haven’t these bars updated their selection and moved with the times? Even the cask range in the pubs in this area all seems selected from a 1998 list of decent beer. Isn’t there any opportunity to branch out?

I had some decent beers the other night – most notably was perhaps the Augustiner Dunkel in Cask Bar – but it says a lot that my favourite pint of the night was the classic Coach House Brewery Blueberry Bitter in The Deansgate – which, incidentally, was on terrific form. A lot of beer was distinctly average, but maybe four years ago I would have raved about it. The bar has been raised, as it were. Sand Bar, Odder and The Temple especially have a lot to learn.

Of course I exclude Knott Bar through all this. When we finally reached here I enjoyed a great Hardcore I.P.A. from BrewDog. It seems they have seamlessly embraced the current beer environment. Why can’t the rest of Manchester? So I blame Port Street Beer House solely for spoiling me and making my standards far too high. How dare you encroach on our city with your terrific selection of currently popular beer!

Unfortunately Oxford Road/Deansgate area, you have failed to entice me away from Port Street. Next time, it won’t even be up for discussion…


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