Last week saw the Sheridan suite in Manchester play host to The National Winter Ale Festival, as I’m sure you know, especially if you have seen my Twitter account in the past few days. I was there, this is what happened.

A coach came and took us to Manchester on the Friday afternoon (by ‘us’ I mean myself and Jonny, mate, walker and fellow beer drinker). It wasn’t a very nice coach – there was no leg room. When  we finally arrived in the city centre we had to trudge through the snow, trying to find our digs for the evening. I had cleverly decided to memorize the map (this doesn’t always work), but we did eventually find shelter. We checked in, dumped our stuff and set out into the city.

Hungry and thirsty we dived straight into the first pub we could see that did food. The Piccadilly on Piccadilly, generally OK pub with five real ales on, none of which I had tried before. We sat down and had dinner, and tried all ales on offer. In the mean time we had been joined by Dan, a mate who neither Jonny had seen since a house party some time ago who now lived locally.

After The Piccadilly we moved on to Brewdog, where we spent the rest of the evening having some rather fancy (and pricey) beers, AB:12 especially was a highlight for all of us.


Following morning we walked up to the Sheridan Suite, where the festival was taking place. By the time we had got there, there was already a queue out of the door. It soon started to move and we were in.

First pint of the day (After paying to get in, then paying for a programme and then paying for a glass and PAYING to put my coat down) was from Offbeat brewery, a red ale called OddBall Red. A good start, and the good beers kept coming. One of the highlights of the day was another beer from Offbeat called Venus Ella; part of the Venus project, which promoted women brewing. Dunham Massey’s Porter was also up there as one of my favourites of the day.

I have to admit I thought that it was going to be a much larger affair than it was. I was expecting one of CAMRA’s national events to cater for a larger surge of people. When we first walked in I thought to myself that it was going to be rammed, but, in the end, it was just the right size.

The only downside for me was that all of the champion beers which had won at the festival were announced earlier and as such were all gone by the time we got there. Shame.


After the festival called time me walked back into the city, got a few cans of beer and sat in the common room in the hostel. There was a very loud group of girls from Ireland, who wouldn’t shut up or leave, and an overly friendly chap who was either from Denmark or the Netherlands, Jonny wasn’t overly keen on him.

Following morning we checked out and hit a Wetherspoon’s  had breakfast and a pint of Ilkley’s Lotus IPA, which was nice. After which we mover on to a different Wetherspoon’s which had more choice,amongst which was the champion beer from the festival, Elland 1872 Porter, which was one of the best beers of the weekend.

Last beer of the weekend was Build a rocket boys! by Robinson’s. I had been wanting to try it for some time after finding the bottles somewhat lacking. The cask version more than made up for it.

All in all, lots of good beers at a good festival in a good city.