A look at recent beer developments around Great Northern Square
It's been a strong year for Manchester's beer scene and a stronger year for Manchester’s newest area to-be-seen: the Great Northern Square/Peter Street area. Just off Deansgate and dominated by the Great Northern Warehouse, this small area is developing quickly from an area for alcopop fuelled party-goers to a hotbed of champagne bars (Epernay,) revitalised gig venues (Albert Hall), larger MK2 versions of Northern Quarter favourites (Almost Famous and Home Sweet Home) and, of course, Craft Beer.
Arguably Brewdog spotted the area’s potential early, opening on Peter Street when nobody saw it coming and many assumed they’d house themselves comfortably in the Northern Quarter. But with a newly developed city centre area comes new openings - and most bars know that dedication to beer is a high selling point at the moment. I visited two new bars last week on a visit to Great Northern Square that have advertised their beer selection as much as their other commodities.
Seemingly under development since the days of Bohemia gentry (or at least since the reopining of Albert Hall), the former site of Brannigans finally opened last month to many excited whispers amongst young suited city centre professionals. Albert Schloss is a concept birthed by a collaboration between the Trof family and owners of the Revolution bars. Primely located between Brewdog Manchester and Revolucion de Cuba, Albert Schloss sells itself as a “Cook Haus and Beer Palace” and “Manchester’s first Tankovna, serving the freshest Pilsner this side of the Danube.”
It's undoubtedly a beautiful bar to look at internally - but then so is the Wetherspoons in Harrogate. Whilst the Bavarian bier halle theme, bright alpine interior and shiny wooden casks are appealing, I can’t really see past my brother’s initial description that Albert Schloss is a slightly fancier Bierkeller.
Opting against the four wooden casks that serve unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell shipped directly from Plzen weekly – which I realise would have been the choice of most geeks – I followed my palate with a Paulaner weiss bier. There’s nothing wrong with the beer or how it is served, but the choice stops at a basic range of German stalwarts: a Weissbier, Dunkel and a Helles, along with a couple of fruit beers. Perhaps they hope the Pilsner Urquell will sell itself, but quite how that fits into the Bavarian theme...
Albert Schloss will fit nicely into the Peter St vibe for people who find the Northern Quarter too twee but are the wrong side of raucous on a Friday after work for the exclusivity of Spinningfields. This is one the beer hunters can give a miss, but an interesting addition to Manchester’s bar scene all the same.
Meanwhile, barely 50 yards away, in the Great Northern Square and in place of the original Taps Manchester is the also newly opened No.1 Watson Street: a bar that has sold itself on being a prime spot for a beer.
“We love beer and want to get our passion for that across to the public” they say in this article.
Sadly there’s a bar-by-numbers – or craft-by-numbers – feel to this place. There's more of the wooden, empty (“spacious” they may want to call it) Scandinavian design that is now practically the theme of every new bar opening in Manchester, as well as being a redesign tactic for others.
With opening talk that focused on beer, veteran drinkers will be uninspired by the selection. I’m not sure how much of this enthusiasm for beer they have can be shared by Asahi or Charles Wells’ DNA. The likes of Camden and Outstanding offer decent, familiar choices, but this all-keg range is not going to appeal to any enthusiasts. The fridges don't save the situation. Also, the strong Camden presence (three of their beers on my visit) rather opposes early mutterings that this bar would focus on local beers from “within the ring road.” Perhaps that Ring Road is actually the United Kingdom’s coastline.
A menu range of stonebaked pizzas and sandwiches adds a refreshing change from the usual list of FUCK YEAH, CAPSLOCK burgers. The bar itself fits nicely with the Albert Schloss along its Great Northern Square/Peter Street brethren, but won’t be visited away from debauched nights out with friends I’m afraid.
The day also included a visit to Brewdog Manchester across the road. I’ve visited all too rarely in the last 12 months as the Northern Quarter area across town continues to produce the best beer bars. The only change here is an attempt to confirm Wetherdog status by replacing the old chalk boards beer list with BrewDog’s domineering cinema-esque white affairs. It seems an attempt to make the majority of their bars have the same heart and core continues. The Wetherdog nickname may feel like an easy dig, but it's continuing to come to fruition. They could do with understanding that their best bars - just like with 'Spoons - comes when they break away from the regular blueprint and create a new experience.
Finally a small snippet of beer news from this area, though I am yet to witness it with these fading eyes. Revolucion de Cuba on Peter Street has also looked to improve its beer selection. So far I have received vouchers inviting me to redeem them for two of their new world beer lines: Mahou and Budvar. There is also rumoured to be "Camden beer" on as well. Not a particular style of Camden brewery beer - just "Camden beer." Golly! I think I’ll stick to the Mojitos when I visit.