I went to a CAMRA beer festival at the National Cycling Centre in East Manchester on Saturday afternoon.
I thought I'd limber up for it by going to a few places I'd not been to before in the Northern Quarter, the former warehouse district now transformed into an alternative cultural area in the northern part of Manchester city centre.
The Micro Bar in the market hall of the Arndale Shopping Centre is run by the Boggart Hole Clough Brewery in North Manchester whose beers I've enjoyed a few times at beer festivals. As well as the couple of handpumps on the bar, the attached bottled beer shop seemed to be doing a decent trade in the half hour or so I was there.
The Lower Turks Head on Shudehill reopened as a hotel and pub a couple of years ago after being closed for more than two decades. It wasn't quite as ornate or cosy as I'd expected - it's been knocked through into a wine bar next door - but it was busy with football fans on the way to the match and the Black Sheep Best Bitter was fine.
Just round the corner is the Abel Heywood, Hydes Brewery's flagship city centre bar and hotel, named after the one-time Chartist and Radical who became mayor of Manchester in the 1860's, which opened last year. It's a lot less "boutique bar" and far more pubby than I'd imagined and had a good mix of regulars, football fans and tourists, friendly staff and a decent selection of beers from Hydes' Beer Studio range on the bar.
Adding the Hare and Hounds, a couple of doors up Shudehill from the Lower Turks Head, and the Unicorn, just across Church Street from the Abel Heywood, to my mini-crawl would I reckon make for a fine circuit of some of Manchester's most atmospheric drinking establishments, all of them within a relatively small area between Tib Street and High Street.