I went along to the Manchester Craft Brew Festival and cut short my stay - for a good reason

Whether it was a chocolate stout or a cucumber and mint sour - there was something for everyone.
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Craft breweries from across the country set up shop at Trafford’s Victoria Warehouse this weekend for the second ever Craft Brew Festival. 

Greater Manchester was well represented in the line-up of 15 breweries, with offerings from Blackjack Brewing Co, Cloudwater, Salford’s Hideaway Brewing Co and the Stockport-based Neighbourhood Brew Co. The event took place over two five-hour sessions, one on Friday evening and the other on Saturday afternoon.

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We went along to the Saturday session to check out some of the breweries and ales on off. From fruity sours to desserty stouts, here is everything we tried.

Manchester Craft Brew Festival 2024. Credit: Danny PayneManchester Craft Brew Festival 2024. Credit: Danny Payne
Manchester Craft Brew Festival 2024. Credit: Danny Payne

How it works

The Craft Brew Festival opened at 12pm on Saturday, April 13, and despite arriving on the dot, there was already a large queue outside the entrance – which is impressive considering it was a typically grey and drizzly Manchester day. The festival took place in two of the basement rooms of the Victoria Warehouse event space, which provided a cosy, low lit setting.

At £47.50 for early bird tickets and £50 for final release tickets, prices are on the steeper side for a beer festival, but there is a very good reason for that. Unlike most festivals, where you buy tokens to spend, the Craft Brew Festival offers unlimited beer. This means you can take your half pint glass – also included in the price – and keep filling it up. This also explains the queues as there were definitely groups of people setting up camp for the full five hours, including a couple of stag dos. 

Manchester Craft Brew Festival 2024. Credit: Danny PayneManchester Craft Brew Festival 2024. Credit: Danny Payne
Manchester Craft Brew Festival 2024. Credit: Danny Payne

These festivals are more than just a booze up, though. In Manchester there are more taprooms than ever – a sign of the craft brew trend that has been growing over the last ten years. Therefore, the majority of attendees were beer aficionados and were there to discover new indie breweries. That’s also why the festival also provided each visitor with a handy guide and checklist lanyard for all the real heads to keep track of everything they have sampled. All the stalls were manned by staff from the individual breweries and they were all keen to talk to punters about what they had on offer. 

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We started off with something new from a familiar brewery and went for a passionfruit NEIPA called Electric Boogaloo by the Newport-based Tiny Rebel. I don’t want to perpetuate any gender stereotypes here, but I am partial to fruity beers and sours, so my other choices included a blackberry and rhubarb sour called Talk to your Alchemist and a cucumber and mint sour called Wide Open Space by Vibrant Forest Brewery. The latter was probably my most ‘out there’ choice, but surprisingly refreshing. I also tried a pale ale by Sureshot Brewery titled Dean the Absolute Madman (excellent name) and a chocolate stout called Same Darkness by Vibrant Forest. 

Manchester Craft Brew Festival 2024. Credit: Danny PayneManchester Craft Brew Festival 2024. Credit: Danny Payne
Manchester Craft Brew Festival 2024. Credit: Danny Payne

Thankfully, there was a decent selection of different street food options outside, including pizzas, vegan junk food and tacos, which we gladly devoured in between samples. We also had a browse of some of the merch each brewery had brought with them as I always enjoy the graphic design and creative branding that craft breweries always seem to have. The Preston-based Jimbrew even brought a fun installation of old televisions, with one of them displaying their menu on a Ceefax page.

All in all, it was an afternoon well spent, but we decided to be sensible and call it a day around 3pm, otherwise the rest of my weekend would have been a write-off. With Indy Man recently announcing it would not be returning for 2024 and the terrible reviews from the International Brewing and Cider Festival at Mayfield Depot in March, it’s good to know that there are still some great craft ale events like this happening in Manchester and we look forward to next year.

How to get involved

If you missed the Manchester Craft Brew Festival, you may still be able to get your hands on tickets for the Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol editions that will be taking place in the coming months. Tickets for the Manchester event sold out for the Saturday and there were only a small percentage left for the Friday session, so it’s advisable to book early. 

The full list of participating breweries:

  • Hideaway Brewing Co (Salford)
  • Sureshot (Sheffield)
  • Blackjack (Manchester)
  • Siren (Wokingham)
  • Neighbourhood Brew Co (Stockport)
  • Vibrant Forest (Southampton)
  • Crooked River (Maryport)
  • Bianca Road (London)
  • Indian Brewery (Birmingham)
  • Disruption is brewing (Camberley)
  • Copper Beech (Kidderminster)
  • Tiny Rebel (Newport)
  • Hawkshead Brewery (Kendal)
  • Jimbrew (Preston)

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