I went to the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival last night, in its new home at Manchester Central.
I was a fan of the velodrome where the festival was held for the last two years. I enjoyed the unique experience of drinking a pint while watching bikes flash past you on the track above. Many of the teething problems of the first one (accessibility for disabled drinkers, lack of seating and beer shortages) were largely addressed at the second, but the cycling team who are its main tenants effectively kicked us out and CAMRA was forced to look elsewhere in Manchester.
I can't think of anywhere more iconic that CAMRA could have picked than Manchester Central. It's a Victorian former railway station and the arching iron roof reminds you a bit of Olympia where the Great British Beer Festival is held. Another similarity to the GBBF is the addition of brewery bars from local breweries including Marble, Bollington and RedWillow.
The January beer festival in Manchester is replacement for and in many ways a continuation of the National Winter Ales Festival which was held here for much of the last decade before moving to Derby. That's probably the reason I often end up drinking beers in that category such as dark milds, stouts and strong ales, this year mainly from the brewery bars, but also the porter just launched as part of Robinson's range of White Label one-off brews.
I'm going again tomorrow and already have a list of other beers I want to try, at the top of which is the Batham's Bitter I didn't get round to yesterday.