Friday 20th March finally saw the launch of one of these Taps – the Piccadilly Tap on Station Approach – albeit a soft launch. My understanding is this is the Bloomsbury Leisure Tap, not the Pivovar one that was set to launch in Ancoats, but honestly my head is so full of taps I stopped caring weeks ago. I’d read a few criticisms by Tweet of the Piccadilly Taps feeling unfinished, which is rather pointless considering it is unfinished and they have been very honest about that fact. It wasn't until Thursday though that I made my inaugural entrance to the place.
It's fairly easy to walk past the place as it blends discreetly in to the desolate, soulless Station Approach buildings, presumably designed to have the same character as the empty hearts of passing commuters, with ease. The decor for the downstairs is minimalist and this is even more noticeable by the sparse number of customers in there on my visit. There is to be an upstairs but that is not yet complete and the toilets are currently port-a-loos; the nicest port-a-loos I've ever seen mind. There are no bottles or fridges yet. There is a workman flat on his back with a rainbow of wires in his hand installing something behind the bar whilst I am drinking in there. But there are 27 beers on.
The beers I try are all kept well, but they currently "do not have the capability to serve thirds" which is disappointing though it will obviously come in eventually. I'd heard Manchester isn't represented enough in the beer selection and there is too much Beavertown for my liking but I do manage beers from Cloudwater and Chorlton whilst here. Other customers I observe come in are rather incumbent of what all Taps, whoever they are owned by, have to face. One customer assumes they don't do cask as he can't see any pumpclips, then claims he needs to see clips to make up his mind, even though all the information he could possibly want is clear on an enormous wall. He must love him some branding. A few groups baulk at the prices and all settle on the cheapest pint they can see, which is naturally the weakest cask beer. Do us proud, Manchester folk. With cask on average around £3.60 a pint, this place is fairly respectable for our city centre. The keg seems comparatively cheaper to most places in the nearby Northern Quarter too.
I'll reserve judgement on the Piccadilly Tap until its official launch, but even then I can see this being exactly as I expected: somewhere I will happily nip in before or after getting on a train, but rarely for more than a couple before moving on elsewhere. There's nothing wrong with that though.
I left Tap for Port Street Beer House as there was to be the launch of Left Handed Giant Brewery later that evening. They weren't a brewery I knew anything about prior to the evening which made it all the more intriguing. As it is Left Handed Giant are a Bristolian brewery made up of Rich, Henry, Jack and Bruce (of whom three were present for the launch.) They presently test batch their beers on their own 200l kit before making these on a larger scale at other breweries, a la gypsy brewers. They were friendly, approachable and had brought 7 beers with them: 3 cask and 4 keg.
The problem was that overall the beer was poor. The three cask beers - Pale, Porter and USPA - were all flat, thin and unenjoyable. The Porter was the best of the bunch, with enough roasted malts to make it passable but the insipid USPA was almost undrinkable, tasting like a bag of wet week-old salad. Me and my friend didn't manage to finish a half of any of these between us.
The first two keg beers we drank were the Wiper & True collaboration Bristol Vice Sour Wheat that tasted like Hoegaarden mixed with Cloudy Lemonade that had been left in the sun for a week. No flavours married and, whilst there was much going on, it was a mess. The Weird Beard collaboration Mo-Rye-Arty at 9% had a little more depth, with some pleasant bitterness and rye haziness, yet it still felt thin and unaccomplished.
The final two beers gave more promise. The Arbor collaboration Flat White - an 8.5% Imperial Coffee Milk Stout - had lots of big roasty flavours and the sweetness the style craves, as well as having all the body of an Impy. The final beer, a hefeweizen called Mein Schwanz at 5.5%, also has decent potential with it's heavy banana flavours and a slightly tart straw saison yeast in the finish.
I'm loathe to criticise a brewery but this wasn't the greatest of starts. I hope there can be continued enhancement in the areas they've shown potential and that may well come with their own kit. They are obviously enthusiastic and have good contacts so will have the chance to develop. A launch at a place such as Port Street will certainly do them no harm but there’s no doubt there needs to be huge improvement to survive in an increasingly huge market with excellent quality.