Close this search box.

Cheers to Manchester – beer critics’ new book showcases the city’s brew brilliance

Today we're talking beer with one of Manchester's top beer critics.

Our guest is Matthew Curtis, an award-winning beer writer and co-founder of Pellicle Magazine who lives in Stockport.

He’s here to share insights about his forthcoming book, “Manchester’s Best Beer, Pubs and Bars,” set to be published on October 18, 2023.

This book promises to be a comprehensive guide, unveiling the hidden gems and exceptional brews that make Manchester a hub of contemporary beer culture.

Manchester, a city with a rich history and an enduring love for pubs, has witnessed a fascinating transformation in its beer landscape.

From traditional pubs offering top-quality cask ales to cutting-edge bottle shop bars and brewery taprooms, this metropolis has become a magnet for beer aficionados.

We’ll explore the evolution of Manchester’s beer culture, the challenges faced by its independent brewers, and the exciting prospects on the horizon.

Furthermore, Matthew Curtis will shed light on his collaboration with Stockport’s Runaway Brewery, which has given birth to the “Manchester’s Best” beer, inspired by a classic Boddingtons recipe.

We sat down with Matthew to talk beer.

Manchester’s Best Beer, Pubs and Bars

Lowry at Sams Chop House Photo Credit: Matthew Curtis

He said he was thrilled about his latest project: “It’s been 18 months of research, then about six months putting it all together. I’ve got the PDF and it’s just going to the printers now, but yeah, it’s very exciting.

“I really enjoyed the research process too! It was amazing to get out and about in Manchester and Greater Manchester too, trying these amazing pubs and bars.

“Manchester has this sort of all-encompassing, diverse beer scene that you don’t really get in other cities

“It’s really a special place to enjoy a beer.”

His book promises to be a comprehensive guide that uncovers the hidden gems and exceptional brews that have turned Manchester into a hub of contemporary beer culture.

The Beer Evolution of Manchester

The mighty Pev

Manchester, a city with a rich history and a deep love for pubs, has undergone a fascinating transformation in its beer landscape.

Curtis reflects, “When I moved here, I moved to Levenshulme, and I was like this neighbourhood has just got great beer.

“I get to travel around the UK to cover beer and have been doing so for about eight years now, but I didn’t find anywhere that was quite like Manchester in terms of how mature the hospitality scene was and how broad the offering was in terms of pubs, beer, and breweries.

“It was when I got out into the towns of Greater Manchester I realised something really great is going on here. There is a beer or a pub or bar that caters to almost anyone.

“The beer culture in Manchester has evolved from traditional pubs offering top-quality cask ales to cutting-edge bottle shop bars and brewery taprooms, making it a destination for beer enthusiasts.

“Even restaurants like Higher Ground have got some amazing beer for sale with their great food. Port Street, Beermoth – a few of the classics dusted with some hidden gems.”

The book explores 183 bars, pubs, restaurants,  breweries and places with ‘just great vibes’ in Greater Manchester where you can get some top-drawer beer.

Greater Manchester’s Hidden Pub Gems

Matthew said it was the hidden gems outside of the city that really inspired him to dig out the amazing pubs in Greater Manchester.

He said:  “I think what really stood out for me was when I went to some of the outlying towns in Greater Manchester.

“I’ve never been to Wigan before but I’d heard great things about this pub called the Swan & Railway Hotel – a beautiful Victorian Place.

“The feeling I got when I walked through the door – you instantly get this feeling that, woah, this is something a bit special.

“I had my camera and notepad so got chatting to the Landlord, and they were so happy to show me the pub and the different features from over the years – I had an incredible pint of Bass too because it’s one of the only two pubs in Greater Manchester that has draft Bass.

“I sat there for ages soaking up the atmosphere, chatting with the locals with the jukebox humming away in the background. It was awesome.

“I went back two weeks later it was so wonderful.

It wasn’t just in Wigan, but, you know, visiting places like the Magnet in Stockport, or the Baum in Rochdale or Fox and Pine in Oldham.

“I went for a couple of pints in there, and I spent like five hours there, and met someone, and we just decided it is genuinely one of the best pubs in the UK, let alone Greater Manchester.”

The Fox and Pine is currently in the running to be one of the best pubs in the UK

Matthew emphasised that while many people focus on the popular areas like Piccadilly station, the Northern Quarter, and Deansgate, his exploration of the book revealed the true essence of Manchester and Greater Manchester lies in the neighbourhoods.

He particularly highlighted the New Oxford in Salford as an exemplary establishment, teeming with character, featuring engaging regulars, and presided over by a charismatic landlord.

Matthew’s findings showed that delving just beyond the city centre allows one to discover the authentic Mancunian and Salfordian spirit.

What he found most captivating was how each neighbourhood had its distinct personality, forming a diverse tapestry of English culture.

Challenges Faced by Independent Brewers

The Fox and Pine in Oldham

Despite the city’s thriving beer scene, Curtis acknowledges the challenges faced by independent brewers.

He notes, “The reality is it is tough… I had some friends in Clitheroe who just closed down their amazing bar called Corto.

“Rising costs and economic pressures are a real concern for breweries and bars alike.

“Last week marked its final day of operation, and while I couldn’t attend the closing night, I visited later, feeling more angry than sad.

“They were doing everything right, but the mounting bills and escalating costs became unsustainable for them.

“In fact, we’ve lost several establishments, even while I was researching the book.

“Temperance Street Brewery, for instance, closed its doors just last week, and Epicurean had to shut down its Ancoats location.

“The truth is, the hospitality industry, including breweries and bars, is facing incredibly challenging times.

“The only way we can hope to improve this situation is through genuine government intervention.”

A Vibrant Future for Manchester’s Beer Culture

The wonderful Cask. Photo Credit: Matthew Curtis

“In Manchester, there’s an attitude and resilience that is inherently Mancunian… it just keeps going,” Curtis continued.

“It’s unique, actually, that Manchester has four historic brewers.

“All the other cities around the UK have sold out over the years, but we, you know, it’s Manchester, so they’ve stayed independent.”

Matthew, however, sees a promising future for the city’s beer culture:

“The beer scene keeps moving forward. Despite the odds, Manchester continues to see new breweries emerge.

“For example, in 2022, while four breweries closed, five new ones opened.

“There’s plenty of reason to be cheerful about Manchester’s amazing pubs and bars.”

Manchester’s beer culture continues to thrive, with new breweries and bars constantly emerging, keeping the city at the forefront of the craft beer scene.

Matthew’s Top Three Greater Manchester Breweries to Try

The team at Runaway Brewery

Runaway Brewery: “I have to say them because they are my local and they have helped me brew a beer for the book launch! No, honestly, they are amazing. We’ve also brewed a keg of Boddington’s to the original 1974 recipe (with a slight tweak) adding sugar to the malt. In 1988 Whitbread took over Boddies and changed it from a pale to a brown ale, with lots of controversy. We’ve got the original.”

The Balance Boys

Balance Brewing: “These people are doing something completely new and unique. These wonderful wild sour ales, they are almost wines. They also sell beer from England only in their taproom which is open on Saturday. They are awesome, go try them out!”

Banktop Brewery Bolton: “When I was researching this book I tried this mild, with an amazing flavour from this team. It was a truly special beer. I think a lot of focus goes on what’s going on in town –  with these amazing breweries like Clouwwater, Track and Marble but this is a truly delicious and really special beer.”

Manchester’s beer culture thrives, with new breweries and bars continually emerging, solidifying its position at the forefront of the craft beer scene.

Matthew Curtis’s forthcoming book will offer a captivating exploration of Manchester’s best beer, pubs, and bars—an essential guide for beer enthusiasts and a celebration of the city’s unique character.

You can pre-order the book by clicking here


Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

Got a story worth sharing?

What’s the story? We are all ears when it comes to positive news and inspiring stories. You can send story ideas to [email protected]

Get the Newsletter
Timeless Reads
Latest News
Upcoming Events