After a successful first gluten free beer swap back in January, it was time again for Pete (@GFManc) and myself (@GlutenFreePint) to meet up once more to exchange beers, catch up and enjoy a few drinks! This time it was my turn to head over The Pennines into Manchester as last time we did the swap in Sheffield!
The first stop of the day was Wine & Wallop a wine and real ale bar in the heart of West Didsbury. Earlier this week they had held a meet the brewer session with First Chop, so we were in luck… four gluten free beers on cask! Where better could we have gone for our first stop? The options were all from First Chop – Sup (3.9% Session IPA), IPA (4% Juicy IPA), JAM (4% Mango Pale) & SYL (6.2% Black IPA). Pete started the day with a pint of the JAM and i went for the SYL, we’d both already had all the beers on offer here so went for our favourites!
It was then time for a quick stop at Pete’s place where the swap took place! We’d both sourced yet more new beers for each other from around the UK to swap – slightly more difficult than last time as we’ve now both had over 150 different gluten free beers! With beers from Brightside Brewing, Wildside Brewing, Arbor Ales, Daas, Hadrian Border Brewery, Firebird Brewery, Firebrick Brewery, Nene Valley Brewery, Shiny Brewery, The Brew Foundation and Sadlers Ales there was quite a few beers to go around! I’m sure we’ll both enjoy the beers we have swapped over the coming weeks!
It was then onwards and upwards into the Rainy City – where for the first time ever in living history the sun was actually shining, Paul The Weatherman must’ve known it was Gluten Free Beer Swap Day and told the sun to put it’s hat on! Special thanks to Sue (Pete’s Wife) for the lift back into the city too so we could continue the celebrations of Gluten Free Beer Swap Day!
The first call in the city was The Dockyard in the Spinningfields area, recommended by Pete as a good shout and regularly have a gluten free option on tap. We weren’t to be disappointed either with two choices on the keg line for us, First Chop PIP (6.5% Grapefruit Saison) and Brightside Maverick (4.8% IPA). Neither of us had had the Brightside Maverick before so two pints were ordered – brewed using hops from the USA and New Zealand, the beer has a grapefruit aroma finished with a refreshing dry bitterness giving you the feeling of wanting to drink more!
Swiftly moving on to The Brink around the Deansgate area – a hidden gem of a micropub. Located at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs decorated with bees (the symbol of Manchester), The Brink claims to be a Dinky Downstairs Drinkery and I couldn’t agree more! The fridges were lined with choices from First Chop, Wildside and Magic Rock Fantasma. However the keg tap on the end of the bar drew our attention away from the fridges. The ever so helpful bar staff checked if Brightside Helles Lager was gluten free on keg, thankfully the response was positive and so a pint each was ordered – another new beer for me! Possibly one of the nicest lagers I’ve had at 4.8% with a crisp refreshing taste and slight citrusy aroma. Pete had kindly picked me a can of this up too for the beer swap!
We’ll not discuss the walk between The Brink and Port Street Beer House – after giving someone directions towards Strangeways, walking for what seemed like miles and calling in a pub en-route that had NO gluten free beer we made it to Port Street Beer House. The fridges were the best bet here, with Magic Rock Fantasma, some of the First Chop range and also Burnt Mill Steel Cut plus a beer we shouldn’t talk about on keg. We opted for a can of the Burnt Mill Steel Cut (rather pricey at £8.20) a 4.2% Pale Ale, one of the best gluten free beers on the market & the base of two new beers we’ve seen recently from Northern Monk and Cloudwater. We also had Magic Rock Saucery too, a 3.9% Session IPA which is essentially a watered down Fantasma. We’ll await an official announcement from Magic Rock regarding this beer in the near future too…
57 Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter was next, with not much choice on the gluten free beer front it was either Fantasma, Fantasma or Fantasma… so we opted for a can of Fantasma each. Topping both Pete’s and my beer of the year last year, we’ve both already discussed that it’s been pushed from the top spot by a few other good beers this year! The 6.5% IPA from Magic Rock gives a tropical aroma and happened to match the tshirt I was wearing, I’ll be known as Fantasaman from this point forward! Even the staff at 57 Thomas Street couldn’t help but notice the link between my top and the beer I was drinking!
It was then on to the Piccadilly Tap located just outside of the main Piccadilly Station, last time I was here back in November (on a journey to Spain) they had a variety of First Chop cans in the fridges, this time however the First Chop cans had been replaced by Magic Rock Fantasma and the range from Brass Castle plus First Chop Sup on keg. We both went for a pint of First Chop Sup, a 3.9% session IPA giving a tropical aroma with slight bitter finish. It was at this point we discussed our fate for the remainder of the day! After a quick spot of googling we decided on our final 3 venues for the day.
GRUB was to be our next venue, which I’d highly recommend to anyone visiting Manchester, located just by Piccadilly station the street food fair brings together great food and craft ales in an open air location – perfect for when the sun is shining like yesterday! Our beer choices again were either Magic Rock Fantasma on keg, or the Brass Castle range in cans. To keep things mixed up Pete went for one of his favourites – Brass Castle Bad Kitty – a 5.5% vanilla porter, and I went for the Brass Castle Hoptical Illusion – a 4.3% pale ale. Both drinks were enjoyed along with some excellent street food (even if a little on the hot side!)
Just around the corner in the station arches is Beer Merchants – Unit 101 MCR, which has the feel of a popup bar – only opening on a Saturday, we’d dropped on! After checking the cask/keg lineup and the fridges are options here again were limited to First Chop in cans. We both opted for the First Chop SPA – a 4.5% Pale Ale brewed specifically for the Salford Food & Drink Festival last year, yet thankfully continues to be availalbe. SPA is both of our favourite beer from the First Chop range and again was enjoyed!
Finally it was time to hit our final venue of the evening. Not too far away from Beer Merchants also in the railway arches is home to possibly one of the most famous craft breweries in the UK, Cloudwater. Their beer is raved about from beer experts around the country so it was only fair we popped in to say hello. After releasing a gluten free beer in collaboration with Burnt Mill around 3 weeks ago, we heard it’d sadly been removed from sale due to hop-burn. Thankfully I’d managed to grab a can of it in the short time it was available, but Pete hadn’t been so lucky. After
talking to bribing the bar staff for a few minutes and explaining our situation, we were kindly gifted with two cans of Cloudwater Disturbing The Oats – a 6.5% IPA. It was still clear the hop-burn was present, however did seem to have improved from the first time I’d drank it. Despite Cloudwaters disappointment in this beer (they have exceptionally high standards), I was still pretty impressed with the Disturbing The Oats and have another can or two to enjoy at home yet!
And that was it for Gluten Free Beer Swap Day 2! We hope you enjoyed reading about our swap and the beers we enjoyed in Manchester… until next time, goodbye!