My love of cocktails is certainly no secret: find the latest hidden speakeasy, a random pop-up, or the hottest mixology magic, and you will usually find me sipping away in the corner. However, despite this deep love, my heart will always belong to the pubs. The honesty of a boozer is something that is so often overlooked it frustrates me; I find nothing more relaxing than rocking up to a pub, newspaper in hand, and settling into a great afternoon of good ales and good company with complete strangers putting the world to rights.
I think in the time I’ve spent in a pub I’ve solved the Middle East, Brexit, and why English football is just so dull. They come in every size, shape, theme, and level of popularity but I find myself drawn back to time after time. In my early drinking days I spent a significant time in my local at the bottom of the street I grew up on, and my love was born there. You get anyone and everyone, people of all ages, sharing drinks, laughs, and stories. It’s something distinctly British, and something we should cherish much more than we currently do.
Manchester has an extraordinary range of pubs to choose from. I couldn’t choose the best one, or even the best ten. Below I’ve listed a healthy starting point, the ones I frequent; they really do give you a feel for what “pub” means to Manchester.
The Briton’s Protection
Found in the maze that is Deansgate, The Briton’s Protection is everything that a pub should be. Built in 1806, the Protection has stood the test of time, and survived the change we have seen throughout Manchester. With a fine cask selection, there are plenty of local brews to sample but what makes this pub something a little special is the outstanding 300-strong whiskey collection. From rare Scottish blends, Japanese delights, single malts, and real bourbons it is without doubt one of the finest collections in the city. It serves good, honest “pub grub” that, considering its pretty central location, won’t burn a hole in your wallet. The Protection is charmingly honest and doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t, welcome change to some of the more trendy venues, you can frequent.
50 Great Bridgewater St, Manchester M1 5LE
The Marble Arch
Marble is somewhat of a Manchester institution. Situated in their own old brewery, The Marble Arch is the Mecca of beers. The impressive bar stocks a whopping eleven hand-pull options that houses a variety of local brews and Marble’s own drafts. Trust me – you won’t be short of choice. I recommend starting on the left and working your way along; see how far you can get before you fall off your stool. The food is your standard pies and fish and chips, but it goes that one step further. Freshness is everything to the chefs here and you can certainly tell. On a side note, you have to visit simply for the “cheese menu”, complete with tasting notes, geography and a comprehensive history of each option. With roaring log fires, comfy alcoves, and location away from the hustle and bustle of the city, you’ll never want to leave.
73 Rochdale Rd, Manchester M4 4HY
Seeing is believing with this one. Formerly known as The Temple of Convenience, this renovated Victorian public bathroom is one of the cities little know secrets. Pint-sized is certainly a phrase that comes to mind, but don’t worry, you won’t be left wanting. The bar stocks a staggering thirty selections of foreign and local ales for any type of drinker as well as a healthy whisky and bourbon selection. The bar has faded rock-and-roll vibe and certainly doesn’t take itself seriously; plus it has one of the best jukeboxes in the city. It’s not short on charm or quirks, easing you into its intimate seating arrangement. Fun fact: in Elbow’s track Grounds for Divorce, the chorus is dedicated to The Temple.
100 Great Bridgewater St, Manchester M1 5JW
A haven for the real ale lover. I would say that it has one of the finest selections of hand-crafted ales in the entire city. Working with local breweries and independent brewers, The Angel’s line-up also includes a great number of hand-pressed ciders and handpicked wines. As it’s also an award-winning gastropub, the food is second to none. It’s nothing pretentious; it doesn’t need the bells and whistles; it keeps everything simple. Good beer, good food, and good people. You won’t find a warmer welcome.
6 Angel St, Manchester M4 4BQ
The Oust House
Nestled in the busy, fashionable district of Spinningfields, you’ll find the imposing Oust House. This unusual venue offers a great selection of dark and pale ales whilst also enjoying a surprisingly comprehensive wine list. It hosts a unique deli counter serving top quality meats as well as a much-loved BBQ that, during the height of summer, draws in the entire city. With a significant outside space, this is a summer time drinking paradise to while away the day with good friends.
The Avenue Courtyard, Spinningfields, Crown Square, Manchester M3 3AY
I’ve long supported the campaign to save local pubs, as I believe they offer something that goes beyond that Friday pint after a long week. Pubs bring people together, they hold communities together, and they are bridges that close the divides in our society, so whilst I implore you to check out these and many of Manchester’s others locals, spare a thought and try your own local, wherever in the country you may live – you never know what you might find and the friends you’ve yet to meet.