Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Manchester Craft Brewery Crawl

If you've spent any time with me, you've heard my lecture along the lines of "Well you know, for us cask ale is an especially good kind of craft beer, but in England the cask ale lovers hate 'craft beer'".  It's true.  The CAMRA crowd consider craft beer to be too expensive, too strong, too gassy, and too pretentious.  When I'm travelling there, I fall in with the real ale crowd and spend almost all of my time in real ale pubs.  That's my own pretentiousness showing, though I sincerely love the pub atmosphere and the lower-alcohol beer.  And I appreciate a bargain.

On a trip to Manchester this month with Pub Night charter member Lindsey, we mostly focused on cask places, but we did set aside a day for a craft beer crawl.  We started at the venerable Northern Monk Refectory in the Northern Quarter, continuing on to Cloudwater, Track, and Sureshot in the industrial area on the wrong side of the tracks behind Piccadilly train station.  Balance Brewing a few doors down from Sureshot was closed for our crawl so we visited it a few days later.

Tip: Google Maps gives horrible walking directions in Manchester.  It will never tell you to take the scenic canal walk from Northern Monk to Cloudwater shown on this map.  Instead it will march you along 4-lane thoroughfares the whole way.  And the canal path is such a cool walk!  See how the map shows the canal going under Store St?  When you walk it, you discover that the canal is lifted up over Store St.  It's delightful.  One way to get better walking hints is to turn on the bicycle layer in Google Maps -- it will show nicer streets or paths to walk on.  Maybe Google's deficiency isn't Manchester-specific -- I was also mystified by some of its choices in Liverpool and a small town in Wales.

Northern Monk

I first learned about Northern Monk on a visit to Leeds -- where they are based -- a few years ago.  Then on my last pre-Covid trip abroad in December 2019 I checked out the Manchester location which wasn't far from my hotel.  Rare among craft beer taprooms in England, NM has a guest kitchen serving hot food like Lindsey's meatball sandwich there.  On our visit they had a number of good hoppy ales on tap, along with a pastry stout and a couple of lagers.  There were a handful of guest taps, and three cask engines were on.  As a general principle, don't order cask ale at craft brewery taprooms in England -- it is not their strong suit and you will get better cask at pubs that know what to serve and how to handle it.  That principle held mostly true on this pub crawl:  we were usually disappointed in the cask offerings, here included.

One interesting recent development at Northern Monk is their commitment to make more non-alcoholic beers and hop waters.  For example, the two smaller glasses in the picture here are the flagship hazy pale ale Faith at 5.4% -- delicious -- and Holy Faith at 0.5%.  I didn't try A Little Faith (4.0%), but Holy Faith was a really good AF beer, one of the best I've tried.  They use the Holy prefix on their alcohol-free beers.

Cloudwater Brewery

Cloudwater is one of the most respected craft brewers in the UK, so popular that you sometimes see it distributed in the US.  The taproom atmosphere is pretty basic, but the tap list offers a lot of variety.  There are a couple of cask engines (as I said above, probably not the best play) and 20 keg beers including a nitro tap and an AF IPA.  Some pretty creative offerings when we visited -- I enjoyed the perry-barrel-aged saison, but I wasn't crazy about the hopfenweisse.  Imperial Gose?  I wonder what royal family needed sturdy export beer from Goslar.  And of course plenty of hoppy offerings.

There is also a refrigerator full of cans from Cloudwater and guests, if the taps don't cover you.  There's not a kitchen as such, but the £6 cheese plate was generous enough to power us on to three more bars that evening.

Track Brewing

Right across the street from Cloudwater is the taproom for Track Brewing (warning -- McAfee doesn't like this website, and in my desktop Chrome there is an annoying news popup that won't go away).  On my previous visit it was even closer, since Track was renting the space underneath Cloudwater's taproom.  It looks like they moved into their permanent location in mid-2021, and it's a spacious and comfortable industrial space that opens onto the brewhouse.  Twenty kegs and two casks.

The beers at Track were my favorite of the crawl, and that is high praise indeed because Northern Monk and Cloudwater are nothing to sneeze at.  That includes the cask ale we tried -- I wasn't taking good notes, so while I think it was the flagship Sonoma, it might have been the barrel-aged helles.  It was the only craft cask that night that I thought was up to the mark.  The staff on duty were unable to tell me if the "wet-hopped" pilsner was what is more correctly called "fresh-hopped", but I kind of doubt it.  The local terminology is usually "green-hopped", and it didn't seem to have the fresh hop notes I would expect, though it was pleasant enough for a 7.2% monster.  The smoked helles was tastefully done, and I loved the barrel-aged Vienna lager.

Sureshot Brewing

For the last decade or so, the Victorian-era brick railway arches behind Piccadilly station have provided cheap digs for a number of Manchester craft breweries.  Track started in a railway arch, and relative newcomers Sureshot and Balance (see below) have made very pleasant taprooms under the arches.  I really enjoyed our visit to Sureshot, but somehow I came away without a single photograph of the place, maybe because we struck up a conversation with a dapper young fellow who turned out to be a delegate to the Conservative Party convention that was taking place that week in Manchester.

"Hey, you're wearing a suit, are you with the Tories?"

[Looking around]  "shh, shhhh.  As a matter of fact, I am."

"Next round's on you!"

"Please turn your phone off."

The beer at Sureshot is not bad, but I would say it isn't yet up to the caliber of the other places on the crawl.  Nevertheless, it is well worth a visit, because the place is fun, even when you are talking politics.  Since I don't have a picture of the taproom, I can offer up a picture of the souvenir cans I went back and bought later.  Clever packaging that someone put a lot of thought into.  Pictured here are We'll Burn that Bridge when We Come to It Pale Ale, Let Me Tell You about My Mother DDH Pale Ale, I've Started so I'll Finish DDH IPA, and Double Dipped Chip Double IPA (not pictured: I Cannae Change the Laws of Physics American Pale Ale, with the image of Starfleet Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery Scott).  Double Dipped Chip was a big hit when I sampled it out to Austin friends.

Balance Brewing & Blending

A few doors down from Sureshot is Balance Brewing & Blending, which is well worth a visit if you have any interest at all in sour beers.  They've filled the back of their railway arch with barrels and foeders containing their mixed-culture concoctions.  In the front is a laid-back tasting room, where the 6 taps have a combination of house and guest beers, all of the wild variety.  When we were there, they had three of their own on, two tasty fruit beers from Crossover which is improbably located between Luton and Cambridge, and a nice table beer from Burning Sky, more believably situated just outside of Brighton.  My favorite when we visited was Balance's Apricot Wild Ale, but if I remember right, Lindsey favored their Saison de Maison.  I also liked one of the Crossover beers a lot -- I think it was the Raspberry-Plum one called Purple Bell, but it might have been the Cuckoo flavored with Cherry and Blackcurrant.  They have some cans and bottles for sale to go, but they were out of my price range.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Twitter Archive Wrap-up

The previous three posts have all my Twitter activity from 2008-9, 2010, and 2011.  Not all of the tweets have to do with It's Pub Night or with beer, but the Twitter account is mostly an extension of the blog.  It's not a place where I interact with family or work colleagues, and not very seriously with the few friends who are connected on Twitter.

This post has links to what I tweeted and analyzes when, who, where, and how I tweeted.  The only unanswered question is WHY?

When I was actively blogging, I got very annoyed by blogs that were more about blogging than about their supposed subjects.  I'm not sure how I would have reacted to these posts which just hash and rehash blogging and tweeting done years ago.  In my defense, one reason I started a blog was to document the current moment, for the benefit of readers in the future, and this furthers that ideal.  I will put the tweet archives for 2012-2022 on separate pages to keep them out of the blog post stream. 

Here are all the posts and pages with the complete tweet history, up until late November 2022 when I requested the archive from Twitter.

It's been fun to look over the Twitter archive and remember what was happening 10-15 years ago.  While extracting, timestamping, linkifying, and ordering the tweets, I gathered some statistics about them that may or may not be interesting.


I was never a very prolific tweeter, and it has really fallen off in recent years.  The archive I downloaded contains 9230 total tweets.  Here are the yearly totals:

  • 2008: 25
  • 2009: 797
  • 2010: 1347
  • 2011: 1847
  • 2012: 1333
  • 2013: 1092
  • 2014: 723
  • 2015: 307
  • 2016: 357
  • 2017: 526
  • 2018: 342
  • 2019: 141
  • 2020: 157
  • 2021: 146
  • 2022: 89
You might attribute the recent dearth to the pandemic, but the downward trend began in 2012 and was obvious by 2014.  Looking through the archive, there is a single tweet with the word "covid" in it, and that is a re-tweet of someone else.  Mainly, Twitter became less fun as more politicians and celebrities joined, and as the company tweaked their algorithms in ways that disfavored quirky occasional posters like myself.  There were fewer local fun people to interact with.  I don't think we were shadowbanned, but the effect of the algorithms was the same.

1555 of the tweets seem to be retweets, though in the early days you might add RT to a piece of original art to pretend to have a conversation with someone like Barack Obama or your friend Wallace, like:

Friday July 25, 2014 05:02 PM

  RT @BarackObama Thanks dude! RT @halfbipolar 9:15 RT @BarackObama Hey @halfbipolar What time does pillowfight play at the Hawthorne Theater?

Actually I can't remember if I started that or if Wallace did.  Anyway, some of the statistics below could be skewed a little by retweets, though the big picture is accurate.

More pictures start appearing in tweets in mid-2012, and become more common as time goes on.  There were pictures in tweets before then, but often had to be hosted on a different site like twitpic.


Another fun thing about this project was to look back at who the beer Twitter/Portland Twitter characters were at that time.  Some are still active; some have lost interest or quit drinking; some I now realize I did not know at all and have no way to begin tracking them down.  A few have passed away and are dearly missed.

In the early days you could make IRL friends that you first met on Twitter.  I don't think that happens much anymore, thanks to the algorithms.

All told, I mentioned or replied to or retweeted 1131 unique user IDs.  I mentioned my wife once, and each daughter three times.  I wasn't connected on Twitter to any other family members, and absolutely no one at work.  Here are the top people I tweeted to or mentioned in tweets:

  • SamuraiArtist: 589
  • Beervana: 268
  • jwall4: 144
  • AGSHender: 143
  • UrbanBeerHiker: 143
  • NewSchoolBeer: 136
  • JfwellsPDX: 122
  • itspubnight: 118
  • brewpublic: 115
  • HumuloneRed: 115
  • socialretard: 113
  • ConOat: 112
  • beerinator: 101
  • TracyTThomas: 95
  • turbodog: 92
  • SnobRitch: 91
  • Notteham: 83
  • bikeportland: 72
  • rojasburke: 71
  • TheBeermongers: 66

Man I miss UrbanBeerHiker.  Though I did see him 4 years ago, about a year or so after he ditched Twitter.


At first most of my tweets were done via text message, which was actually a pretty common way to tweet back then, if you recall.  I would also get text messages if someone mentioned me, or if selected people tweeted anything.  It took a while before I sent a few pictures to Twitter via text message.  Here are the various ways my tweets arrived on the platform:

  • Yoono (2010-2014): 3141
  • Twitter Web Client (2008-2018): 1922
    • Plus 19 tweets from Twitter "Mobile Web"
    • Plus 70 tweets from "Twitter Web App" -- how is this different?
      • 54 of those are from 2022 after TweetCaster stopped working
  • TweetCaster for Android (2014-2022): 1832
  • Twitter SMS (2008-2015): 1505
    • Plus 98 "MMS" tweets (picture attached)
    • Also 3 text tweets while I was at a show at Dante's in 2016 (???)
    • Also 1 text tweet in 2018 from a plane on the runway in India
  • Echofon (2010-2011): 463
  • Twitpic (2010-2012): 81
  • Instagram (2017-2018): 43
  • Beermapping.com (2009-2011): 28
  • twitterfeed (2009-2010): 12
    • Supposed to automate tweeting of new blog posts, but more work than simply tweeting them myself.
  • Twitter for Android (2014, 2022): 6
  • Twitter for Websites (2011, 2013-2014): 6

About 17% of my tweets were via text message.  Another 22% were typed into the Twitter webpage. In 2010 I discovered browser plugins that made reading and posting to Twitter better:  first Echofon, then yoono.  40% of my tweets were with these plugins, and now I can't remember a thing about how I used them.  In 2014 I got my first smartphone, and quickly discovered that third-party apps are much better than Twitter's own app:  1) no advertisements or promoted tweets; 2) they give you the tweets in order, not according to Twitter's stupid algorithms; 3) you can temporarily mute people or subjects.  I used TweetCaster for about 20% of my tweets until it abruptly stopped working in 2022.


I am not a great hashtagger.  There are less than 500 hashtags in my tweets, and 158 were from trying to cross-post to Facebook without having to log onto it.  Another 48 were from the #ontappdx days of Taplister, back when Twitter was about more than Twitter.  Here are my top 20 hashtags:

  • fb: 158
  • OBF: 50
  • ontappdx: 48
  • PDX: 43
  • gabf: 41
  • freshhop: 38
  • craftbeer: 29
  • pdxbeer: 28
  • pedalpalooza: 25
  • BBC11: 21
  • beer: 15
  • ff: 15
  • SundayParkways: 15
  • SBWF: 14
  • freshhops: 13
  • haf2011: 13
  • pdxbeergeeks: 10
  • hrhops12: 8
  • rimshot: 8
  • sampletraystunt: 8


Below is the list of sites I linked to the most on Twitter.  A lot of the links in my tweets are obscured by link shorteners.  For this list, I replaced as many of them as possible with the true targets, though that is heavily skewed towards posts on its-pub-night.com itself.  The pdx.be and nblo.gs shorteners are defunct, so those 63 links are not knowable.  Some t.co and bit.ly links couldn't be found for some reason, or maybe they pointed to other t.co or bit.ly URLs (my process of tracing the links is not exhaustive).  The twitter.com links are often modern quote tweets, not real interesting links.  Still, the list gives you a pretty good picture of where I linked to:

  • twitter.com: 603
  • its-pub-night.com: 585
  • bmap.us: 311
  • twitpic.com: 146
  • newschoolbeer.com: 62
  • pdx.be: 53
  • instagram.com: 50
  • bit.ly: 39
  • t.co: 38
  • beervana.blogspot.com: 24
  • youtu.be: 17
  • oregonlive.com: 16
  • blog.oregonlive.com: 15
  • brewpublic.com: 15
  • youtube.com: 15
  • maps.google.com: 14
  • imageshack.com: 13
  • nblo.gs: 10
  • thenewschoolbrewblog.blogspot.com: 10
  • portlandbeer.org: 9
  • bikeportland.org: 8
  • anearforbeer.blogspot.com: 7
  • beerpulse.com: 7
  • facebook.com: 7
  • flickr.com: 7
  • urbanbeerhikes.com: 7
  • wweek.com: 7
  • beeradvocate.com: 6
  • beeronomics.blogspot.com: 6
  • google.com: 6
  • notsoprofessionalbeer.com: 6
  • nytimes.com: 6
  • web.archive.org: 6
  • apintfordionysus.wordpress.com: 5
  • dontdrinkbeer.com: 5
  • examiner.com: 5
  • i.imgur.com: 5
  • pdxbrewtunes.blogspot.com: 5
  • thebrewsite.com: 5

Preserving History

This exercise seems like a way to further the historical preservation goal mentioned at the beginning of this post.  It also shows how fragile documents can be, even in the Internet age.  For a while I used a link shortener called pdx.be, which seemed really cool because you could make custom links like "pdx.be/erReviewMaker", but it went offline at some point and took all the links with it.  Even if a shortened link still exists, the website it points to may be gone, or may have reorganized their content. Some tinyurl.com links to new It's Pub Night posts now fail, though others succeed. Other information is lost when tweets are replies to someone else's tweet, but Twitter can't find the original.  Everything can combine to leave tantalizing mysteries like:

Thursday October 15, 2009 10:40 AM

  @rpFactotum That's awesome and too bad at the same time. Happened last night? http://bit.ly/3jzqAD

The username "@rpFactotum" is no longer valid on Twitter, the tweet being replied to can't be found, and the bit.ly link points to content that has vanished or been renamed.  Wish I knew what this bad awesome thing was that happened the night of Oct. 14, 2009.

I fixed whatever broken links in these tweets pointed back into It's Pub Night.  In terms of broken links in the blog itself, if you're lucky the Wayback Machine will have preserved the original links.  For example, San Francisco vs. Portland from 2010 links to two paintings in the SFMOMA collection which are uniform gray rectangles, but now in 2023 the links are broken.  The archived page at the Wayback Machine has links that correctly point to an archived version of the museum website, so you can see what I was carping about.  With that in mind, here are snapshots of It's Pub Night for the busiest years, so that hopefully you could navigate to links which are broken today:

Just before I requested the archive in November 2022, and days before the new Twitter owner posted his infamous pair of polls, I posted my first Twitter poll.  The text of the tweet is in the archive, but not the poll choices or results.  Since the poll was about this anniversary, I'll put a picture of it here (sadly I got the anniversary date wrong).  As a measure of how brutal the Twitter algorithms are, my poll only got 15 responses.  I realize not all followers are real or active, and lots of people are discouraged by Twitter right now, but interaction from 1% of followers tells me I've been put on a shelf.  I had to beg for some of the votes even.