Manchester Lockdown Beers

So, we’re halfway through 2020 and who would have thought the year would have panned out like this? Enjoying pints in pubs and brewery taprooms feels like something from the distant past and social catch ups with friends in your favourite local feels like an alien concept, replaced by Zoom hang outs which although enjoyable, are not quite the same. I for one have been taking it as my own personal responsibility to ensure that all my favourite pubs and breweries are able to survive through this difficult time, which has meant that I have not quite been making the ‘lockdown savings’ I could have been! N.B. I am in the very fortunate position of my job not being affected by the pandemic.

The last Manchester beer tour I guided for UK Brewery Tours was on Saturday 14 March – shortly before the lockdown was announced – and we’ve not been able to run any tours since. I have really missed talking to strangers about the Manchester beer scene so thankfully, my friend and fellow tour guide Sarah asked me to take part in the first of her new ‘quick pint and a catch up’ events on Facebook Live. As we’ve been having so many beer deliveries during lockdown, we decided to have this as our theme so I thought it would be worth collating my notes into a short blog post about some of the great beer deliveries services from breweries in Manchester that I’ve been making the most out of during lockdown. (if you would like to catch up on the live event you can do so here: https://www.facebook.com/sarahannhyde/videos/2584860398421882/)

Alphabet Hook Lime and Sinker, Lime and Chilli Gose

Alphabethttps://alphabetbrewing.co.uk/collections/all
Alphabet have been running an amazing delivery service during lockdown, where if you order before 2pm you get your beers delivered the same day. They’ve had a scattering of great new releases during the period too from an excellent pilsner, to the latest beer trend – Sabro pale ales. I’ve found during lockdown that my boyfriend and I have been buying a lot of more “out there” stuff, like imperial stouts, imperial goses and various mad sours, but sometimes (and more often than not) all I really want is a really well made sessionable beer and I think Alphabet always does them very well. I miss going to Alphabet as they are a great bunch of guys making great beers. I’m looking forward to having some draft straight from the source once things go back to normal but until then, I’m happy with getting cans delivered from Alphabet which always taste fresh.

Beatnikz Republic – http://www.beatnikzrepublic.com/shop
Beatnikz have mainly been doing 3L and 5L cask boxes and crowler cans for delivery and there’s been a pretty wide variety of beers available (although you have to get in there quickly as the cask boxes in particular tend to sell out). You also have to time your delivery well because the cask boxes and the crowlers need to be consumed within 3-5 days from delivery. Having had a look more recently though, it does seem like they’ve started to stock a lot more regular cans as well which will last longer. You need to spend over £20 for free delivery and they deliver on Tuesday’s and Friday’s every week (cut off for Tuesday delivery is midnight on Sunday and deadline for Friday delivery is midnight on Wednesdays). Local delivery only though I’m afraid, so if you are outside Manchester they aren’t delivering to you right now. I particularly likes Beatnikz’s Raspberry IPA collab with Vault City as it’s quite different.


Blackjack session IPA

Blackjackhttps://www.blackjack-beers.com/shopbeer
Blackjack are also doing direct local delivery and have also been selling a lot of cask beers, mainly their own, but also some from other breweries too. They’ve recently started adding kegs and cans too. You have to order by 6pm on the day before they are due to deliver to your area (you can check the areas they cover and the days on their website). I’ve only very recently made an order from Blackjack – not through lack of trying but I’ve found I’ve just been too slow to act before most stuff sells out. It seems to have calmed down a bit now so I managed to put in an order of four IPAs and their new ‘pub ale’. The delivery was very quick. 


Runaway Summer Saison

Cloudwaterhttps://shop.cloudwaterbrew.co/
Cloudwater already had a webshop set up before the coronavirus pandemic hit and we have ordered from them before, but what’s been so great about their online offering during lockdown is that they’ve been stocking loads of beers from other Manchester breweries and beyond that can be ordered for delivery too. They have mainly been doing this to help out other breweries who were unable to sell their own beer directly to customers via their own online store – Manchester breweries included on their webshop include Squawk and Runaway. They’ve also been stocking beer from Boundary Brewing Cooperative from Belfast, who due to Northern Ireland’s alcohol licensing laws were unable to sell their beer to customers direct (I believe this has been changed now and Boundary have been able to set up their own webshop. It’s been great that Cloudwater have been able to use their popularity and influence to help out other breweries in this time of need. Cloudwater have also been running various events to help keep things interesting (e.g. Manchester curry club supporting a local street food trader and a collaboration live event with the Craft Beer Channel). They’ve also been communicating really well with their customers during this time, via regular newsletters about events they are running, new releases and updating on the welfare of their staff and general check ins about how people are doing. The delivery service itself is excellent too – they’ve been running a Manchester local delivery service where they deliver to different postcodes on certain days of the week, as well as their standard UPS delivery which is very quick.
 
Thirst Class Alehttps://thirstclassale.co.uk/collections/all
We’ve had two boxes delivered from Thirst Class (based in Reddish, Stockport) during lockdown as they are the closet brewery to where we live and make some really nice session beers. One of my faves is the Reddish Rye and I also really like the Sorachi Ace ale they make. They’ve had loads of great ales available to purchase from their webshop during lockdown, including the conveniently named “Don’t Panic” which felt very relatable, especially towards the beginning of lockdown. They offer free local delivery if you spend over £25 and have more recently been adding lots of other local and not-so-local breweries to their webshop. We ordered quite a few Torrside beers from them which was great – like Cloudwater, Thirst Class have also been helping out other breweries who don’t have a webshop or the means to deliver.

Trackhttps://trackbrewing.co/collections/beer
Another Manchester favourite, Track, have been offering a great delivery service and beer selection via their webshop which included exciting new releases (which sell out really quick by the way so I recommend signing up to their newsletter and then acting fast!) as well as classics such as sonoma, which during lockdown has been offered as a cask box, keg and can subscription service. I have ordered a couple of the cask boxes during lockdown and these have not only been great value for money at £12.50 each but also satisfied my craving for cask which I have really missed since pubs have been closed. I have also now ordered a sonoma keg, which is yet to be consumed, but I’m sure it will be equally satisfying. Track also included a postcard in the last order we received with them, with a great design from one of their beers and a thank you message, which I felt was a nice touch. Breweries have really had to adapt quickly to the new state of play during lockdown and I think they are very grateful for how customers have continued to support them (and we too are grateful to still be able to access high quality beer delivered to our doors!).

Hawkshead Brewery

Last week I went on holiday to the Lake District with my boyfriend and our puppy, Chips. I’d never been to the Lakes before and we had a fantastic time filled with lots of walks, drinking great beer in cosy pubs and eating the best food. One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley. We’d wanted to visit for ages and when we realised that where we were staying in Bowness-on-Windermere was not too far away, we decided that we must go.

To get to Hawkshead, we had to get a bus to Windermere and then a train to Staveley. The trains are only every hour, despite it only being a 10 minute train ride, but we didn’t mind as it gave us an opportunity to have a look around Windermere. We stopped off at a great pet shop and bought Chips a toy turkey and some treats to keep him happy. He got very excited, as it was his first time in a pet shop and dragging him out of there so we could catch our train was somewhat of a challenge!

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Rob and Chips

We arrived at the tiny station in Staveley and worked out that it was about a five minute walk from the train. The village of Staveley is small and quaint, with lots of picturesque cottages. On the way to the brewery, we passed a few local restaurants, a coffee shop and a place selling gelato which all looked welcoming. We arrived at Mill Yard where the brewery is and realised that it was the modern looking building that we had seen as we were coming in on the train. At first Mill Yard appeared similar to many of the industrial estates where you can often find brewery or two, however we were surprised to see a chocolate shop which a local told us “sold the best chocolates you’ll ever eat” and also a bakery. We wondered if these places had already existed or whether the presence of the brewery attracted these other great businesses to Mill Yard.

We’d missed the brewery tour unfortunately, which runs every day at 1pm. For £10 per person you get a tour of the brewery which lasts around 45 minutes and choice of a pint or two halves at the end. As we’ve been on many brewery tours before, we were mainly interested in tasting the beer, so we found a good table, got Chips occupied with his new treats and turkey toy and headed to the bar. I started with a half of “Bright Light, Long Nights” a 4.3% Florida Weisse which was fruity and clean with a subtle tartness to it. My boyfriend Rob went for the “Thyme after Thyme” which is a 4.5% gose made with lemon thyme, thyme, sea salt and black pepper. This beer intrigued both of us as it was unlike anything we’d ever tried before – a really strong taste of the sea came through, but in a good way if that makes sense. Rob said it was one of the best goses he’d ever had, so high praise indeed.

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Me with a sleepy Chips!

The Beer Hall at Hawkshead is very welcoming and all of the staff were extremely friendly and helpful during our visit. They have a great food menu too – we didn’t eat ourselves, however we did look longingly at the food being served around us while we drank and chatted with a variety of different people. You could very easily spend a whole day here, eating great food and great beer and talking – as long as you like dogs that is – the Hawkshead Beer Hall is very dog friendly and we met loads of lovely pups during our visit, to the delight of Chips!

Other highlights on the beer front included the “Great White” a 4.8% cloudy, botanical, wheat beer which was extremely light and drinkable and the “Red” a 4.2% sweet and malty red ale. Rob finished our afternoon at Hawkshead with an 8.5% “Tonka Stout”, which tasted beautiful and the flavour of the Tonka bean definitely came through. I finished with the much lighter “Lakeland Gold” on cask – a hoppy and fruity golden ale which is award-winning and I can see why. Hawkshead also has a great bottle shop on site where you can buy beers to take away, along with a wide variety of merch. I was very tempted by the hoody but decided to save my money – oh well, there’s always next time.

We had a great day at the Hawkshead Brewery and I’d highly recommend stopping off there for at least a few hours if you’re a beer lover on holiday in the Lakes. We will definitely be back at some point, especially as the Beer Hall (and the Lakes in general) are so dog friendly. I’m now thinking ahead to this weekend as on Saturday we are planning to visit the new venue for the Grub food fair in Manchester’s Green Quarter (near where we used to live!). We will also be popping into our local favourites Runaway Brewery and the newly re-opened Beatnitz Republic tap room, before heading over to Hemsley House for the fantastic Salford Beer Festival which we look forward to every year. Look out for a blog next week on my trip to Salford Beer Festival!