The weird thing about going to Manchester is now, it feels exciting. When once it was the city I lived in (okay, I lived nearby in Stockport, but back then Stockpot wasn't on the cusp of being cool so you didn't admit it) now it's a faraway land of cool places to eat and drink, people with envious tshirts and good bands. Thankfully, on stepping off the train, I soon spotted a familiar Paul Weller-style haircut, and relaxed. It's still Manchester.
|Trainbeers - an essential part of train travel|
We were met by the friendliest security guards ever to wear hi-vis armbands, who handed us brightly-coloured leaflets and told us about all the food that was on offer. Tom had been apprehensive about the place - it does seem out of the way and a bit daunting if you're not keen on confidently striding into seemingly derelict buildings like I am - and this warm welcome was much appreciated. I decided to buy him a pint to further improve the mood.
Grub has a brilliant bar. I mean it. For an outdoor, pop-up sort-of place, I'd forgive them for having a few pumps out of service or a slight can shortage, since that's what I'm used to. Oh no. They weren't having any of that sort of thing. The choice we were faced with stumped us for a little while and when we finally ordered, we were off. I was so excited I spilled mine down my face immediately. Luckily it's the type of place that laughs with you, not at you.
Well @GRUBMCR is lovely. I just spilled my Kuwa Niwa Wit Beer all over my face and they weren't even mean about it. pic.twitter.com/To1h51jcE1— Sheela Na Goth (@Shinybiscuit) June 23, 2017
So, the Kuwa Niwa Wit Beer by Derbyshire brewery Torrside Brewing (who brew right near the Swizzels Matlow sweet factory, how cool is that?) was delicious and the perfect start to my afternoon. Refreshing, citrussy (I got a limey-lemongrassy vibe, Tom more of a lemony-lemon verbena ting) it also had a moreish yeastiness, which I love. Shame I poured a third of it down myself.Our number one objective is to be lovely. Go and spill on your face as much as you like.— GRUB (@GRUBMCR) June 23, 2017
We ate from a mezze stall called The Ottomen which quite frankly, was an obscene and salacious display of olives, dips, dolmeh and various flavoursome carbs, glistening unctuously in the sunshine. "We'll take it all," said Tom, reminding me why we're together.
After stuffing our faces with hummous, halloumi, flatbreads and various other delicious middle-eastern delights, we decided to move on to Beer Nouveau's tap room just down the road. Located in a railway arch, I was absolutely relishing the opportunity to walk through an industrial-looking urban area for a change. Maybe I was drunk by this point.
The first beer I tried was Beer Nouveau's own version of JWL XXX from a wood cask. "From the wood" if you're feeling like sounding fancy. Either way, it was in wood and it tasted great and set us up for plenty more pints of ridiculous beers brewed in Steve Dunkley's impressive DIY brewery.
Another reason we'd headed there, on top of Beer Nouveau being a favourite of mine and wanting to drink in a railway arch, was that Mancunian newcomers Origami Brewing were having a takeover on "their" side of the brewery and I wanted to fully investigate. Origami are cuckoo brewers, and currently they are brewing their unique beers in Steve's space, which adds wonderfully to the friendly and collaborative atmosphere of that part of town. To continue the birdie theme, it was also nice to see origami cranes decorating the tap room to celebrate their beer 1000 Cranes. Clever, huh? Speaking with the whole team, particularly brewers Lauren, Erin and Pamela, it was clear to hear their passion and dedication to their new vocation and we couldn't help but like them all a lot. We spend a long time talking to them. We apologise directly if we (Tom) asked too many technical questions.
One Origami beer that stood out for me was their Raspberry Wit because it was a total head-turner. Easy to drink but with a decent hit of fruit balancing out the light and crisp twang of wheat beer style. I loved it. So much so that I forgot the time, drained another, got onto Steve's collection of meads and missed the train home. Not that we cared too much - we stayed until kicking out time, wandered into town and found a punk gig and a few cans of Red Stripe at the Star and Garter. In the morning once we'd slept it off we headed into the Northern Quarter for a restorative breakfast at North Tea Power - amazing, make sure you visit - before heading back home late, but full of love for Manchester.
At the train station we saw the signs, and flowers, showing that love we felt for for Manchester stretches beyond even our own small valley 20 miles north. It stopped us in our tracks a little. We looked up to the small doorway where Victoria Station was still shut off and we silently appreciated our impromptu night out together a little more. Hey Manchester, you're the best.