Marble, Cloudwater… Sureshot. How James Campbell rules the Hopiverse

Not a Punk IPA in sight (thankfully) but the unveiling of Sureshot Brewing’s debut quartet of beers offered a bizarre echo of a seminal Sex Pistols gig, also in Manchester,  a lifetime ago. The seeds of this fanciful link were sown by my brother – like myself, old enough to have been in the Lesser Free Trade Hall in the Summer of ’76, but neither of us claims to have attended. Unlike hundreds of of others. The actual audience for a band barely known outside London barely topped 40.

In contrast Keith and I, on the evening of February 25, 2022, were definitely at a Port Street Brewhouse rammed to the gills for a home-coming beer hero. The loose connection? Virtually all who witnessed The Pistols were inspired to form their own band. The Buzzcocks-to-be organised the gig and the futures of The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, The Fall, Simply Red were all forged that night. 

Maybe everybody supping at Port Street (distinctly un-punk with the plethora of facial hair on show) will be inspired to launch their own breweries. The theory breaks down here since a good raft of attendees were already brewers – the elite of Manchester come to welcome back into the fold one James Campbell, already a legend in his own mash time.

Raised in the Black Country, James became head brewer at Manchester’s Marble in 2000 and for the next 13 years pioneered the pick of New World styles and hops without losing sight of native traditions. Manchester Bitter, Lagonda, Dobber, Pint, Ginger Marble and Earl Grey IPA – most of these are his creation.

It can be argued that his mentoring of the team there is equally influential (shades of that gig). These days you’ll find Dominic Driscoll at Thornbridge Brewing and Colin Stronge at Salt Beer Factory while not forgetting Rob Hamilton, who founded Blackjack, and others.

Later as co-founder and head brewer he launched Cloudwater in Manchester, gaining global recognition. Since leaving there, but not his adopted city, he has set up new brewery plant for a roster of equally cutting edge operations such as Verdant (Falmouth), Deya (Cheltenham) and in Manchester the new Bundobust Brewery.

Still, using my final music analogy, this was like an original talent recording an album of cover versions. Still plans for Sureshot – yes, it is named after that Beastie Boys track – fermented away during lockdowns. Finally on the former Track site alongside Piccadilly Station, using initially their old equipment, it all took shape. Bannered by a beautifully random lion meets sun logo. No cask yet, but the kegs and colourful 440ml cans are launched. Buy the latter via the website. You won’t regret it. Yes, the initial batch will please the hopheads among you, but there’s a beautiful balance to them all. Hard to choose a favourite. Here’s the line-up:

How Much Does Water Weigh? (£4)

A 4.2 per cent pale ale hopped with Centennial, Galaxy and Citra. Crisp sipping with dry finish and fruit throughout. Built on an extra pale malt base. 

I’ve Had My Fun & That’s All That Matters (£4.50)

A generously hopped 5.6 per cent pale ale with Mosaic, Centennial, Galaxy and Idaho contribute  tropical juiciness with a silky smooth, almost oaty texture.

I Lost My Bag In Newport Pagnell, New England IPA (£5)

A 6 per cent NEIPA. Dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin, Citra & Idaho 7, all citrus, grape and pine.

Bring Me The Head Of John The Accountant (£6.50)

An 8 per cent double IPA juiced up on Strata, Mosaic, Citra & Centennial. Substantial tropical blast, mashing melon and passionfruit.

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  1. […] what was the original Track premises on Sheffield Street I got previews of crowd-pleasing IPAs from Sureshot, new venture from James Campbell, a key figure in the rise of both Marble an […]

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