There six bars and venues all vying for top spot:
The Crown and Kettle and The Smithfield Tavern in central Manchester,
The Font from Chorlton,
Petersgate Tap from Stockport and
GRUB, the Manchester Street Food and event experts who played a key role in kickstarting the Manchester Cider revolution.
1. Championing tannic dry westcountry cider
The Crown and Kettle, not only has a dedicated cider bar, but it is the first bar in Greater Manchester to celebrate the joys of Ross on Wye Cider and Perry. They are the spontaneous fermentation experts, mixing the traditions of four generations of cider making from orchards with an unsurpassed number of cider apple and perry pear varieties; with the cutting edge of leading of their innovative Natural Ciders and the campaign to #RethinkCider.
Nicky manages the Crown and Kettle with an infectious smile and a commitment to fine craft beers and ciders. Her commitment to cider took a step up after a recent holiday in Cornwall and discovering the wonderful ‘Castledore’ cider from Fowey Valley.
The Crown and Kettle stocks a balanced mix of on tap, Bag in Box and bottled ciders; including local cider, fine tannin rich ciders and perries from RoW and Tom Oliver, with a range of acidic led ciders.
2. Fine Ciders to be drunk and savoured like fine wines
The Smithfield Tavern not only serves Hallet’s Real Cider on tap, but they also have a chiller cabinet with some of the finest ciders available. Selected by Central Manchester CAMRA as the Manchester Cider Pub of the Year 2019.
The ‘Fine Ciders’ available wonderfully reflect the wide range of styles and flavours available in the cider world. There are celebration, Champagne Style, ciders from Bollhayes and others; perries from Tom Oliver, Butfords and Greggs Pit; sweet keeved ciders from Pilton; and exciting wine like ciders from Once Upon A Tree and Little Pomona.
These are premium ciders available for the price of a bottle of Prosecco, for a Fine Craft Beer or a bottle of wine; and ‘Natural Ciders’ far cheaper than ‘Natural Wine’.
3. Cider with Kimchi …and Dumplings …and Meze …
GRUB has been behind much of the Street Food revolution in Manchester and has played a key role in Manchester’s emergence as a premier Cider capital beginning to rival Bristol and London.
The first Fairfield Cider Fete hosted by GRUB and Hogan’s Cider was such a success that it is to become an annual the event. The 2019 Cider Fete will take place on Sunday May 26th.
There is nowhere else in the North West where you can sit in comfortable armchairs, or in the summer al fresco, and enjoy some of the best Street Food in the country, and some of the best ciders.
We have loved informally wiling away an afternoon in GRUB, finding cider and perry matches for the rich fermented Kimchi and Sriracha spicy foods of Geordie Seoul; whose Beef Bulgogi is a perfect match for Raison D’Etre from Ross on Wye Cider. We are just waiting for a venue to volunteer to host an evening with her Korean foods with tastings of our selection of matching ciders and perries – someone please email us, this is a genuine offer.
Oh Mei Dumplings foods offer perfect matches for Tom Oliver Fine Perry and The Ottomen Mediterranean cuisine and Meze selections demand to be matched with Fine Ciders.
Sadly Manchester Fine Dining Restaurants fall well behind the wonderful selection of Fine Ciders you will find available in London’s award winning restaurants. However, the Spanish Restaurants of Manchester are an honourable exception providing Sidra Natural from Asturia or, in the case of Levanter and Baratxuri in Ramsbottom, cider from the Basque region. Indeed, our favourite Iberica Manchester sells a superb Ice Cider, combining dessert wine sweetness with hints of the sour apples of Asturia.
4. A youthful mix of ciders and cider friendly beers
The Font in Chorlton was such a joy to discover. Trafford and Hulme CAMRA are very lucky to have such a gem in their midst and have named it their Cider Pub of the Year 2019.
We walked up to the Font with our little dog Alfie on a wonderful sunny winters day to be greeted with laughter and the sight of a large group of cider drinkers, mostly women, drinking cider, mostly Hogans, in the sun. We joined them and were excited by their refreshing attitude towards cider as an exciting drink for young drinkers.
The staff at The Font have excellent knowledge about cider and keep it at a good ‘cellar cool’ temperature, not too cold. And what an excellent mix of ciders; they proudly boast “always a Perry, always a traditional tannic cider, always a local cider and always a low or no alcohol cider; with a super balance of on tap, Bag in Box and bottled ciders.
It is a delight to find a bar that gives as much care an attention to its ciders as it does to the, cutting edge, beers stocked. How appropriate that they are also home to ‘Chorlton Home Brewers’, maybe we should get some of them to experiment with cider flavours and wild yeasts?
5. A picture of what a modern CAMRA could look like
Every box ticked in the ‘this is what a modern CAMRA should look like’ survey. Yes, we keep demanding that CAMRA change, modernise. Many think it is beyond reform but a visit to Wigan Central provides a picture of modernity that matches what many of us would like CAMRA to look like. A wonderful back room cellar of temperature-controlled casks and kegs; superb shelves of well labelled bottles of British and International craft beers; a representative mix of men and women and ages of drinkers; and excellent visual displays of the beers and ciders stocked.
And the cider? Well that’s work in progress; when we visited there was a Celtic Marches sweet clementine perry, a West Milton’Dorset Sunlight 6%’ with zero added sulphites, and a tart dry cider from Napton. We would, perhaps, suggest raising the temperature in storage to that of a cool cellar but were pleased how well labelled and advertised each cider was. Add to the range and include a few bottles of quality authentic ciders and then Wigan Central really would have as good a reputation for ciders as it does for beer.
6. “Now that’s how to look after cider”
The bar manager of the Petersgate Tap knows a thing or two about traditional west country ciders but its with his care of the cider he stocks that he really shines. To see ciders, Bag in Box and bottles kept in a cooler set to 11 degrees, other ciders kept in a cool cellar temperature side room; is a cider drinkers delight.
And the ciders? Well, when we visited, we were delighted to find the superb Ross on Wye Cider and Perry ‘Broome Farm Perry 6%’. There was also a choice of local ciders; our current favourite local drink ‘The Dabbler’ and new to us ‘Maxonian Dry 5.6%’ and ‘Holmes Chapel 6.2%’.
We are familiar with ‘The Dabbler’ and have written about this tannin led Dabinett cider, made by orchard based cider maker Dunham Press, elsewhere. The two Macclesfield ciders are from SiDa (I believe that’s a play on the cider makers names Simon and Dave). Personally, we thought that these acidic led ciders should have focussed more on expressing the apples used and their sharpness, rather than fermenting to dry.
7. A new bar and new ciders in Silly Country
Opened in 2018 this modern bar The Silly Country in Droylsden (apparently ‘Silly Country’ is how this Tameside district is known locally) has already won the High Peak and North East Cheshire CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year 2019. They serve Appleshed on keg (made in Herefordshire for the wholesaler Real Al) and on our last visit both Hogan’s and Hallett’s Real Cider in Bag in Box. They also store local cider Moss Cider in bottles and a range of Hogan’s bottles, including the very drinkable low alcohol ‘High Sobriety’. For us the real joy was finding a new discovery, Bulwark Cider from Nova Scotia; with its superb labelling focusses on its natural artisanal roots. To our knowledge this is the only outlet in Greater Manchester for this super acidic led cider.
8. Support your local cider
The Brink is unique in its support for locally brewed beers and for local cider makers. Each beverage it sells is from within a 25-mile area. Visit this lovely subterranean bar and taste the ‘Dabbler’ from Altrincham’s Dunham Press; a tannin rich single variety Dabinett, which matches west country Dabinett ciders but with a mellow laid back northern style.
9. The tiny drinking den
Browton’s Bottle Shop has always sought to place quality authentic cider at the same level as its range of Belgium and other international beers, and the leading British craft beers, that they stock. Simon, the bar manager used to use Cider Cask from Hebden Bridge, but since they retired from supplying cider, he has been looking for alternative supplies. Hogan’s cider provided an answer in 2018 with their super range of different cider styles and flavours. But in early 2019 Tom Oliver recommended Simon try out supplies from The Fine Cider Company. The accompanying photo shows the result: six of the twenty craft ciders handpicked by Susanna Forbes for her 2018 book, ‘Cider Insider’.
And Cider Cask?, well now former cider supplier Phil Kennedy is committing his energies into helping the Fox and Goose community pub in Hebden Bridge, where he holds regular cider tastings. I recommend cider drinkers follow him on Twitter @CiderCask and look out for his new blog. Any bars wanting to do a cider tasting should call on him.
10. The cider bar yet to be recognised
There are many places that we have visited that are improving their cider stocks and knowledge and are moving close to inclusion in our list of the top cider bars in Greater Manchester: Beer School in West Houghton, The Bottle Shop in Heaton Moor, Two Left Feet in Wigan’s Haigh Park,
There are also many bars we planning to visit: Prairie Schooner in Urmston, The Grocer in Cadishead, the new Nordie in Levenshulme, Pi in Altrincham, House of Hops in Swinton, Reasons to be Cheerful in Burnage, Artisan Ales in Sale, Secret Sip in Royton, Stretford’s Sip Club, or any others readers suggestions.
Who will be next for our top ten, well it will be fun finding out, and please send us your suggestions.