Beer, GRUB and the Piccadilly Beer Mile

Ok, so maybe my article last week wasn’t my last Tryanuary related blog post. I promise this one is though! Earlier in January, I was kindly invited by Nomadic Beers to a beer festival hosted by GRUB Manchester. It was their inaugural beer festival and, as it turned out, an opportunity for me to also visit some of the Piccadilly Beer Mile venues.

Unique Venue

For those not familiar with GRUB, they are a street food events company, who also champion craft beer and music. GRUB’s event hosting base is Fairfield Social Club, and whilst this may conjure up images of going for a pint at your local sports and social club, this venue could not be more different. Just a few moments’ walk from Manchester Piccadilly Station, FSC is in an archway under the railways that serve the station.

It really is a unique space. Outside, as you’d expect, the area is quite industrial and rough around the edges. Inside, although still industrial and rough around the edges, lies a pretty awesome events space.

A bonfire? A Tree? I’m not sure, but looked great!

Having not been to the venue before, I’m not sure how much of this was the GRUB event and how much is the FSC itself. Coming through the main entrance, I entered a decent sized initial space. A bar to my left and, immediately in front of me, a tree like structure. Behind that, an awesome seating area made up of traditional lounge chairs and tables. Here, there was an upstairs too, although I didn’t explore that far. As I reached the tree, to my left the venue opened wider. Some picnic style benches in the centre, whilst to my right, another bar, and to my left food vendors.

My initial reaction was pretty much one of awe. I would love to have somewhere like this in Leeds. I guess the closest for atmosphere and location type is Canal Mills on Armley road, there’s something attractive about using industrial spaces like this. After a bit of amateur photography, it was time for beer!

Beer and GRUB

For a first bash at a beer festival, GRUB did a good job! There was plenty of beers to choose from and the token system was fairly easy to follow. How many tokens you handed over for beer depended on the size and strength (on the whole) of the beer.

The beer was easy to find

Beers ranged from sour and IPA to imperial porters, with breweries from all over being represented. There were, of course, some beers that stood out though. Wild Beer Co’s ‘Millionaire’ on cask is particularly special; caramel, shortbread biscuit, creamy with light to mid bitterness. Also, Elusive Brewing’s ‘Rye Have All the Puns Been Done?’, which is hopped using Mosaic, always a winner for me!

The food choice was also good, and whilst I opted for a ‘traditional raclette’ by Raclette Brothers, there were other choices such as waffles, hot dogs and curries. All independent vendors, something that GRUB is passionate about.

Nice selection of food

One thing I should point out is that, because of the location type and structure, it does expose itself somewhat to external weather temperatures. It was cold! So cold, in fact, when we first arrived, some of the beers couldn’t be served as the lines were frozen. Nothing a few layers didn’t help with for me, although I’m not sure how they got the beer up and running!

I was also kindly introduced by Katie (Nomadic) to a few people who, before our trip, were just photographs and Twitter handles! Nice to meet Les and Julie O’Grady, who are behind Neptune Brewery and Ladies That Beer, respectively.

Piccadilly Beer Mile

After a few hours, it was time to move on to a slightly warmer location. Coincidentally, our jaunt to GRUB coincided with Manchester’s Tryanuary host day. So, it was quite fitting that we ended up with some of the Tryanuary Piccadilly Beer Mile crawlers.

What I quite quickly learnt is that FSC is just one part of a network of great beer places under the railway arches.

Stopping off at Unit 101 (Formerly Beer Merchants) initially, I took full advantage of a To Øl beer showcase. ‘F*ck Art – Let’s Funk up the Cranberries’, ‘Sur Germs are Coming Eating Our Pomegranate and Redcurrant’ and my personal favourite (and not quite so elaborately named) ‘Tropical Rumble’ were all on draft. And, I even had chance to participate in competitive sport. Throwing bean bags into holes has never been so exhilarating!

Things got competitive (Thanks for the photo Katie!)

With time for one last stop, we headed into Wander Beyond Brewery. A new name for me, who brew some terrific beers. I was told by the Manchester Tryanuary party that the brewery opened especially early for the event, and it was great to see how busy it was. If you come across the brewery, the ‘Milkshake IPA’ is one to try!

Turning more Twitter handles and photographs to names, it was great to meet, amongst others, the Beer More Social crew and Andrew Rodbourne, former CAMRA Regional Director for Greater Manchester, who wasn’t afraid to shake a few things up whilst in charge! Whilst here, there was also discussion about a meeting in Leeds for beer ladies. I’m pleased to see that this happened last week, and looked to be very popular. I look forward to seeing how that develops.

Bucket List

It was a very special day out, and some of it unexpected. It was great to meet new people who are as passionate about beer as me, and put faces to names as well.

I’m pleased to say plans for a GRUB Summer beer festival this year are already under way. Although, even if you don’t get chance to go to the festival specifically, the Piccadilly Beer Mile is one you should add to your beer crawl bucket list. I scratched the surface, and plan to return soon.

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