Manchester (Ardwick), Greater Manchester:
Beer Nouveau Brewery & Tap Room
Visited on: Friday 22nd April 2019
From the outside the Beer Nouveau Brewery &Tap Room looks decidedly nondescript; just another railway arch amongst many others. Yet inside we found a vibrant little bar along with its own brewery.
The arch in question is actually under the tracks on the approach to Manchester Piccadilly station, not far from Ardwick station. Whilst writing this it crossed my mind as to how many small breweries are located in railway arches.
The brains behind the venture is Steve Dunkley, a former pub manager, who was on duty behind the bar that evening. The brewery started life in the garage of his home in Prestwich during 2014.
At the time it was the smallest commercial brewery in the country, having a capacity of just 40 litres per brew. The equipment was mostly salvaged and built into a brewery by Steve.
The next year he relocated to half of an arch under the railway line at the inappropriately named Temperance Street in Ardwick. The brewery was of 6.5 barrels (bbls) capacity at this time formally used by the Privateer Brewery. A new 10 barrel (bbl) plant was opened when the premises were extended through to the other side of railway in North Western Street. This is the entrance that Linda and I used on the night of our visit and it leads straight to the Tap Room which was added when the brewery was extended.
In the Tap Room Steve has created an eclectic mixture of furniture for his guests to relax. The entrance door is on the left side of the arch. Once inside we could see on the left four armchairs arranged around a low rectangular table.
Still on the left is a very full bookcase against the wall that extends either side of an imitation fire-place, a homely touch! There is normal height table and chairs beyond this area.
On the right side facing the armchairs is the wooden bar counter with its hand pumps. A large blackboard denotes what beers are available. Moving down the arch the cool room is next to the bar on the right. Continuing on that side we come next to the fermentation vessels. There are some tables and chairs in front of these. The brewing equipment is on the left side.
There are a number of wooden casks lying around the brewery and this is a clue to Steve’s main brewing interests which are recreating old styles and barrel-ageing. He had assistance from crowd-funding which he used mainly to purchase a number of wooden barrels.
His first production was a mild from the 1960s and the second was a stout from the 1970s which has subsequently, as “Peterloo Stout”, gone on to be his best-seller.
Another successful re-creation was Tetley’s East India Pale Ale from 1868 which was surprisingly hoppy. Possibly because the hops were added at the beginning of the boil rather than throughout the process as is the norm these days. It was packaged in normal casks, wooden casks and in bottles. Steve thought the bottled version to be the best.
He has also brewed a Russian Imperial Stout from 1859 which has been matured for 24 hours, see below. Steve matures his historic beers for up to two years.
This is where the crowd funding comes in. Customers are asked to nominate beers, paying in advance and collecting them after the long maturation period. Rather surprisingly, Steve is looking for and additional site in another city to establish a 2.5 barrel (bbls) plant.
Unfortunately there was only one cask beer on offer, or so I thought. There were several keg beers but I can’t drink anything fizzy, let alone beer, however well made. The cask beer in question was Ellen Wilkinson Ale (3.7%), an English pale ale and we thought it was fantastic. When I went to the bar to reorder I was directed to another beer that I hadn’t previously noticed on the blackboard menu.
It was further down on the blackboard listed under barrel-aged beers and it was the East India Pale Ale (6.2%) from the old Tetley’s recipe mentioned above. This version had been matured for nine months and it was smooth, bitter and quite complex. So, only two cask beers yet they were both winners.
Aficionados of cider and perry are not neglected here. There is a good range of traditional offerings, with none flavoured with fruit.
There were three from award-winning Ross-on-Wye Cider (Peterstow, Herefordshire): Farmhouse Cider (6.0%), a medium made with eight varieties; Farmhouse Perry (6.0%) and Dry Farmhouse Cider (6.8%) made with three varieties: Dabinett, Brown Snout and Major.
There was also a cider from Perry’s Cider (Ilminster, Somerset) Grey Heron Sweet Cider (5.5%). Another small manufacturer represented was Apple County Cider (Skenfrith, Monmouthshire) with their Apple County Dabinett Medium cider (6.5%). It’s nice to see farmhouse cider and perry to be so well represented, rather than the ubiquitous offerings from the big boys.
As can be seen this is a progressive brewery that serves a real purpose in recreating old styles as well as well-made contemporary beers.
Recommended, but be aware of the restricted hours of the bar necessitated by Steve running the brewery the rest of the time.
Beer Nouveau Brewery Tap, 75 North Western Street, Ardwick, Manchester M12 6DY. Tel: (0161) 272 7733
Hours: Sunday-Thursday Closed; Friday 16.00-22.30; Saturday 12.00-22.30
You need a map to find Beer Nouveau. Even then it is quite difficult to locate.
One tip: do not try to use Ardwick station as it is served by very few trains.
You can catch a bus to the Mancunian Way stop on Fairfield Street.
Catch buses 219, 220 and 221 from the city centre.
From the stop walk forward to the Mancunian Way. Cross to the other side and turn right.
Then turn left into North Western Street. Go to the railway over-bridge.
North Western Street now runs parallel to the railway. The brewery is in an arch underneath it on the right.