10 Questions For...
1) What city are you in, how long have you been there for?
A: Manchester, UK. Personally, I’ve lived here for all 34 years of my life and I’ve been running Manchester Beer Week for two of those.
2) Tell us more about Manchester Beer Week and what have you got coming up this year?
A: Manchester Beer Week is Manchester’s only city-wide beer festival, which aims to celebrate beer culture through a series of events at venues across the city. Last year we helped to coordinate 94 events in more than 70 venues across 10 days, taking place in pubs, bars, restaurants, breweries and other interesting city spaces.
Manchester’s craft beer and brewing scene is booming so there has never been a better time to organise an event of this kind in the city. We’ve got some really exciting plans for this year’s festival, which include a brewery expo on the opening weekend – where all the city’s breweries will open their doors for tours, tastings, talks and more – exclusive beers created for the festival, a range of events designed to suit all tastes, and even two beer festivals.
One of the most intriguing initiatives should be our collaborations between brewers and independent food producers, as we have paired some of the city’s best from both scenes to create special beers for the festival.
3) What personally do you think makes Manchester such a great place to live?
A: It’s quite hard to describe but Manchester just has a certain spirit, a unique character that makes it stand out. For some visitors, the weather can make the city feel bleak but the people who live here are undeniably proud to say they are Mancunian to the point where they deliberately set out to do things differently.
Manchester is built on a strong tradition of social justice and innovation coupled with work ethic. It’s also a city that respects tradition yet is never afraid of moving forward and embracing change. All of this makes it a great place to live and has helped to lay the foundations for the current boom in independent brewing.
4) What if push comes to shove is your favourite all time Manchester bar, brewery and beer from the city?
A: It’s really hard to pick just one in each category but my favourite bar or pub would have to be the Marble Arch, simply because of the unique link it forges between the city’s rich history and its bold present. The Victorian splendour of this place is something to behold – from the tiled walls to the slanted, mosaic-covered floor – and it serves forward-thinking beer from a producer, Marble Brewery, that can legitimately claim to be one of the forerunners of the modern craft movement.
In terms of the city’s best brewery, Marble take some beating due to their overall contribution to the UK’s beer scene but Cloudwater’s output over the past two years has been consistently excellent, while covering a ridiculous range of styles and flavours.
My favourite Mancunian beer, however, comes from Track. Usually, sub 4% pale ales are not seen as the most exciting beers but Sonoma is stunningly straightforward and drinkable while packing in bags of flavour.
5) Which brewery is doing the most interesting beer things in Manchester right now?
A: It really is hard to look past Cloudwater. In just two short years, they have worked incredibly hard to continually push themselves to new heights, experimenting with flavours and styles that may seem daunting to other breweries.
I’m impressed by the thirst for knowledge they show – always looking around them for new ideas and inspirations. In a different way, Runaway are also producing some superb beer. They tend to be a little more restrained in what they produce but that isn’t to their detriment, as they are able to produce beer that is stunning in its simplicity, doffing a cap to tradition while embracing modern approaches.
6) What are the top few places anyone visiting Manchester right now should head to for great beer, food, good times?
A: My favourite place to drink is the Smithfield Tavern, which is run by Blackjack Brewery. It’s a homely, welcoming pub that always offers a great selection of beer on both cask and keg – the kind of place where you can enjoy a boozy night out with friends but, equally, retire to a quiet corner with a pint and the paper.
Another fairly new venue doing great things is Cafe Beermoth and there are few venues across the UK that can rival their beer selection, particularly in terms of the imports and rarities they manage to get their hands on.
Port Street Beer House is always worth a visit as it is the place that set the tone for Manchester’s current beer scene and its worth a trip to the suburbs to visit micropubs such as Heaton Hops, Bottle and Reasons to be Cheerful.
The breweries themselves have also upped their game, the likes of Cloudwater, Runaway and Beer Nouveau all providing enjoyable drinking environments, while GRUB’s food fairs combine good beer with good food.
7) Who for you is doing the most interesting beer things worldwide right now? And where would be your favourite beer destination/adventure now if you could choose to head somewhere on holiday?
A: Although I’m excited by beer from all over the world, my focus is very much at home. That’s probably a consequence of organising an event like Manchester Beer Week, but there is so much great beer on my doorstep that I don’t feel compelled to look elsewhere.
Outside of Manchester, I’m excited by Magic Rock and their tap room is a fantastic place to drink, offering something completely different to other UK breweries. The Kernel have also continued to quietly go about their business, producing some of the most clean, precise pale ales and IPAs you’ll find anywhere in the world.
I also continue to be thrilled by the likes of Cantillon and Tilquin who carry on time-honoured tradition without ever being left behind by the modern scene, making them absolutely peerless. But if I was to jet off on a beer holiday tomorrow, I’d probably head to Philly and America’s east coast as there’s so much quality coming from there and so much more I want to discover.
8) What are your favourite tunes to have on whilst enjoying beer?
A: I’ve always been a huge hip-hop head so, at the moment, it’s likely to be Run the Jewels or Danny Brown. They both provide unique, uncompromising voices in a genre that had started to become bogged down by a formulaic approach. But I regularly return to old favourites such as Gang Starr, Wu-Tang, KRS-One or Eric B and Rakim.
If I’m in an introspective mood, I might throw on some I Am Kloot, Nick Drake or Leonard Cohen and David Bowie is never far from my thoughts. My tastes are pretty varied really.
9) What is one awesome discovery you’d like to share with our YEAST BERLINERS that you’ve found out on your own beer journey?
A: I don’t know how awesome it is but the one thing I’ve learned is that beer truly acts as a social lubricant. Through my passion for beer I’ve met a number of people I would now consider good friends and shared memorable experiences with strangers all over the globe.
I’ve got chatting to people in Manchester boozers and Buenos Aires bars, all of us brought together by a unifying passion that bridges boundaries of age, language or culture. That’s pretty special to me.
10) Finally – where can people find you at next and more information about Manchester Beer Week?
A: The best place to catch me is usually on Twitter. My personal account is @likethemurphys and the festival account is @mcrbeerweek. Other than that, get yourself to Manchester Beer Week, which runs from June 23 to July 2 this year. I promise you won’t regret it! Festival details can be found at www.mcrbeerweek.co.uk
*You can read more of our exclusive interviews with top people in beer here