An ongoing series documenting our search for the best beers available in Manchester.
Freshly nominated for Best Newcomer and Best Bar in the 2011 Manchester Food & Drink Awards, Port Street Beer House was a favourite of ours before we’d even stepped in. A friend informed us that it was a veritable mecca of beers, and that recommendation proved to be spot on: with a superb selection drawn from the major brewing nations, Port Street has fast established itself as the city’s go to venue for connoisseurs.
That label seems even more apt now that the venue has launched its Meet The Brewer events. For the first of these, Summer Wine Brewery were the guests. Managing director Andy Baker and head brewer James Farran were honest enough to admit that their early efforts could best be described as “accountant’s beers.” Fortunately, they’ve come a long way in a short space of time, and have worked hard to ensure that they stand out in a crowded marketplace – not through attention-grabbing gimmicks, but by fostering a spirit of innovation that is evident in every new release.
Upon arrival we were presented with five raffle tickets, to be exchanged for different drinks over the course of the night. We decided to start with the Valencia Pale Ale, and that proved to be a good decision. Pale ales can sometimes be a little wishy washy, but Summer Wine Brewery have judged this one just right, offering up a distinctive beer with a wonderful citrus aroma that is but a precursor to the taste. A sharp burst of orange and lemon shines through every sip, and a pleasant sweetness pervades.
The Rogue-Hop, pictured above, is arresting before you even taste it, an inviting shade of red with a lovely woody aroma. Like the Valencia Pale Ale, fruit flavours are to the fore, with notes of cherry, blackcurrant, and grape all standing out. It was accompanied by the best pork pie I have ever eaten in my life, courtesy of Wilsons Butchers.
The Saison Nettle & Ginger is the first of four saisons set to be released by Summer Wine Brewery in the near future. These days, ginger has become a particularly fashionable ingredient, yet in this instance it’s used extremely well, as a background flavour rather than as an overly prominent feature, making for a light, refreshing beer ideal for the handful of warm summer days we still have remaining.
The next couple of drinks ramped up proceedings in terms of potency. Diablo IPA is the brewery’s flagship brand, and having tasted it we can understand exactly why Port Street’s proprietors fell in love with it at January’s National Winner Ales Festival. It’s a well-rounded dry ale possessed of just the right amount of bitterness, and wonderfully fresh to boot.
7 C’s of Rye is positively lethal; it’s probably a good thing that tasting occurred in half-pint increments, because any more would’ve likely had us on the floor! However, the punch it packs doesn’t disguise it’s delicious malty, biscuity body.
To finish things off, the Summer Wine Brewery boys recommended Teleporter as the ideal palate cleanser. One of the best dark ales we’ve ever tasted, it’s mellow and subtle, like a Saturday morning coffee that immediately perks you right up, sending us off home in very high spirits.
All in all it was an excellent evening. Summer Wine Brewery stands out as one of the country’s finest brewers, run by two gentlemen who are clearly passionate about their work. We recommend that you make your way to Port Street and sample their beers as soon as possible.