Magnetic Manchester

BEAUTIFUL BEER & DELICIOUS MUSIC IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND

On Friday (27 April), as half of the uncivilised world was preparing to invade Aberdeen for the BrewDog AGM I was making my way to Manchester for a weekend of beer consumption and an evening in the company of The Magnetic Fields.

I failed to get it together enough to purchase some beer for the journey so I had to pass the time with sporadic bursts of Twitter, the latest musical offering from The Wedding Present and Acid Mothers Temple and a few chapters of Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out. On arrival I had 30 mins to kill before my mate made an appearance. As I’m sure most of you aware, the perfect way to kill 30 mins is with a tasty beer. I knew the Port Street Beer House wasn’t open until 2pm so I popped down the hill to the Wetherspoons by Piccadilly Gardens. Yeah, I know, the JDW chain isn’t the most auspicious start to a weekend of great beer but despite the criticism they often receive they usually sell decent enough beer a very reasonable prices. My faith was rewarded when I discovered that Mauldons Black Adder (5.3%) was up for grabs – a tasty start to proceedings. A swiftly guzzled pint later and I was back on the street. Moments later the posse was two beer rebels strong and we were marching to Marble’s 57 Thomas Street. My comrade got in the first round: two pints of Emilisse’s excellent DIPA… only £6.35 a pint… but it was delicious so let’s not dwell on the price. As we finished our beers a text came through that announced the arrival of another member of our party. A few minutes later we were seated in the Portland Street branch of Red Chilli eagerly awaiting our feast. I can’t remember the exact configuration of what we ordered but it was all stunningly tasty… when you go there make sure you order the shredded potato and red chilli. Another text message meant the fourth and final member of our entourage had arrived and he was awaiting our presence in Port Street…

Port Street is arguably the finest drinking establishment in Manchester. I’ve only been there a few times but have been mightily impressed every time. My opening gambit was Ilkley’s Medina Saison [6%] – it’s a dark and complex brew but not as instantly delicious as Siberia, Ilkley’s other recently brewed saison. Next up was Summer Wine’s ludicrously tasty Barista [4.8%] – a supremely tasty coffee stout that packs one hell of caffeine hit. Another round was swiftly upon us and this time we indulged in a half of the cheek sucking Human Cannonball [9.2%] from Magic Rock. By now we’d decided not to bother dumping our bags at the hotel but to just keep on drinking and lug our baggage to the gig, which meant there was enough time for another alcoholic beverage. I decided my parting shot should be Thornbridge’s [7.7%] St Petersburg – if you’ve got to have one for the road then it’s a pretty decent choice.

It was pissing with rain so we jumped in taxi after walking only a couple of streets… within a few minutes we were at the Royal Northern College of Music – the venue for that evening’s Magnetic Fields performance. The bar in the RNCM is reasonably well stocked. Okay, there’s nothing that’s going to make the beer cognoscenti get excited but it’s certainly better than the majority of places that I go to watch music. There were a few cask offerings and I plumped for the Paddy’s Tout [4.3%] from Wychwood – a perfectly drinkable but ultimately unremarkable stout. An announcement came over the tannoy that the support band would be talking to the stage in a few minutes but we’d heard too many people deriding them as self-indulgent twee pop – and beer was not permitted in the auditorium – so we decided to stay in the bar. Time ticked by and we supped our ale… then the joyous announcement arrived: The Magnetic Fields would be taking to the stage in 5 minutes.

I’d caught The Magnetic Fields two nights previously at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Sadly we were about 400 miles from the stage (but still not especially near the back of the hall) so the people on the stage were tiny little dots (even at 10x zoom my camera wasn’t interested in taking any photographs that suggested it was Mr Merritt & Co on the stage instead of a mere ramshackle of imposters) and the sound, although certainly not poor, didn’t carry particularly well. But it was still a fantastic evening, as summed up by my post gig tweet: The Magnetic Fields were brilliant… it might not be the best gig I see this year but it’ll probably be the most perfectly beautiful I see.

For the Manchester gig we had seats in row C and the steep raking of the venue meant we had an undisturbed sight line all the way to the stage. We could see every little faux grimace and subtle nuance and the sound was stunning and oh so clear. The band played a great selection of songs including several from the current album and a couple of last year’s Obscurities collection. For me the highlight of the evening, aside from Stephin grumping around with a pickaxe, was the boys only rendition of the Gothic Archies tune Smile. (You MUST listen to THIS version of Smile.) And then it was sadly all over. As we walked through the foyer I sent a tweeted that announced that the Manchester was even more perfectly beautiful than the London one. Then, once again, we were trudging through the cold dark wet Manchester streets.

A few left hand turns later and we were standing at the entrance to The Knott. From the outside The Knott is a pretty unremarkable pub and once inside it doesn’t get a whole lot better… until you get to the bar – the beer selection is rather impressive. I opted for a Summer Wine Kahuna [6%] – a stunningly tangy IPA that I’d previously only had from a bottle so I was very happy to find it on cask. I was very tempted to follow it with a second pint of the same but decided to keep mixing it up and selected a pint of BrewDog’s Dogma Scotch Ale [7.4%] – I was entirely convinced by this and felt it had the vague mechanical taste that I find most Scotch Ales have but I slurped it down eagerly enough. With a couple of pints scooped and last orders already called it was time to high-tail it back to Piccadilly so we could catch the last train to the airport where we were booked into the Travelodge. Infuriatingly, the train was departing from Platform 13 which is freaking miles away from the main concourses and consequently the train was pulling away as we arrived at the top of the down escalator… a £25 taxi journey beckoned.

Back at the hotel I was drunk enough to think that it was a good idea to spend £3.55 on a bottle of Staropramen… I was drunk enough to do this more than once. Nevermind, the day had already given me several excellent beers and the next day promised more of the same.

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~ by landells on May 8, 2012.

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