I’ve decided to pop up to Manchester for the Beer and Cider festival. Mad for iii’!!
It’s being held at the Velodrome, so it’s my first visit to a velodrome and a cider festival. I’ve got my camera and notebook and I’m looking forward to a whole afternoon of sampling some scrumpy goodness. It’s Saturday, and I’m at base camp with my ciderkicks. It’s pissing down, so we get a taxi down to the Velodrome. A bitingly cold wind is blowing across Asda car park as we make our way towards the streamlined Velodrome.
As we got close, our pace slows as we notice the ‘SOLD OUT’ signs on the door, and a big chap is turning everyone away. It seems that 4 hours before closing, is too late for the Manchester Beer festival. We decide to join the throng of people heading back into town, to seek some ciders there. I’ve learned my lesson – don’t turn up to a beer festival on the last day. All the stall holders have made their trade contacts during the weekdays, had a party on the Friday night, then waited for the pissed-up geezers to finish the festival dregs on their way to the Etihad stadium on Saturday morning. The stall holders can then pack up early, with nothing to carry and get on down the boozer. I suppose you can’t blame them.
I squeeze onto one of these smart, new trams, with several hundred disappointed, not-as-pissed-up-as-they’d-like-to-be, geezers, and we trundle westwards. Our first port of call is the Odd bar. Which is oddly, quite a nice place. Ah-ha! Thatcher’s Old Rascal is available, in bottles, served by pleasant staff, while a line of toy soldiers marches across the ceiling. It’s quite trendy here, but not so much that I feel the need to put turn ups in my underpants just yet, so I pour the Rascal.
It’s a deep gold colour, slightly sparkling, and smells a bit like Mackintosh apples. Remember them? They don’t really do them anymore. Anyway, Rascall is another easy drinker. A 4.5% medium sweet Somerset cider, it’s a perfect lead-in to the evening, however, not particularly much to tell, and I suspect it wonn’t live up to it’s reputation (of being an old rascal), but we still have time to find out…
We have to leave the nice people at the Odd bar, and head on down to The Plough at Heaton Moor. This time, it’s a train ride full of Man City fans. They just humped Watford 4-2, so we’re safe from disgruntled fans. I always thought pale blue was an odd colour for a football team.
The Plough is much more of a bright, basic pub, with lots of sports screens, and a few of those guys with swollen, ruddy noses, who wear the stonewash half-mast jeans with their polo shirts tucked in and generic white trainers. But there’s a big pizza menu. They also have Somersby draft cider! I’ve not heard of this one before, so I request a glass of the newby, before I take my seat for the Everton v Stevenage match.
Looking at the glass, it looks fairly mainstream, a clear golden yellow and fizzy. It smells very apply-sweet, like a fruit juice. It tastes quite sweet like a dessert apple cider. On investigation of the Somersby cider website it seems it’s made from fermented apple juice and natural apple flavourings. Hmm, I’m not convinced by this site, which lacks any history or provenance of the cider, and actually states it’s a Carlsberg product. It’s all very ‘Dave’ styled with a fake, comedy history. A manufactured ‘traditional’ cider for the Daves of cider drinking.
After Stevenage are rogered 4-nil, we hop on a bus or two to Chorlton. We venture into The Beech, which, from the outside, looks a bit like a dodgy fighting pub, but Chorlton is a land of very cultured folks, boutiques and posh cafés, albeit surrounded by a landscape of Coronation Street red brick terraces. Wowoweewa! This place has Old Rosie on draft. That’s a first, and a dangerous first, at that. I’m warned by my ciderkicks that the barmaid only recommends halves of this stuff, but with age comes experience. I rarely learn from my experiences and order a pint of the beast, before meandering over to some old duffed up seats next to some ripped up old wall panels in some torn up old room, with some mashed up old people, and their duffed up old dogs.
Saying that, everyone in here seems very open minded, probably discussing the arts, mortgages and schools. However, Rosie is as exciting as the last time we met, full bodied with a smoky taste. We must have covered all of Southern Greater Manchester tonight, so it’s probably time to head home.
Back at the ranch, it’s time for the debriefing (and to finish off the Strongbow and Fosters). Well, no beer/cider festival for me yet, but next time I’ll try to visit during the week. However, I reckon the Manchester pub crawl was a more sociable experience than hanging round a load of cider barrels in a sports hall. Job Done, and plenty of time to book for the dedicated cider festival in June!