What a vintage innings. Kate Goodman opened Reserve Wines just months before her brother Mark was appointed Lancashire Cricket Club captain (and there have been seven since). That was 20 years ago this autumn and the one-time BBC Food and Drink Programme grape guru has never looked back. Think of her as the presiding angel over the progress of Manchester (suburbs and all) towards its current status as a serious wine-celebrating destination.

Reserve’s personal 20th celebrations are only just beginning and they will stretch out across Kate’s innovative empire – the Burton Road mothership, outlets at the NQ’s Mackie Mayor, Altrincham Market and Picturedrome Macclesfield food halls plus Bents Garden & Home, Daresbury. Kate is second left in this Alty celebration.

There are two more projects on the way. When we catch up – alas not over a bottle of our beloved Côte-Rôtie – she is coy about these. Just as she won’t spill the beans on which stuffy, old school Manchester merchants intimidated her enough to go away and start up her own business in 2003. The route forward was not scowling your way through a phalanx of dusty racks but sharing your enthusiasm via fun YouTube takes. These days she popu;ates Twitter too with her pithy bottle tips.

Those obvious presentation skills earned her a slot on Food and Drink alongside the likes of Michel Roux nearly a decade ago. But it has been the day job that has consolidated the passion for wine seeded by impressionable years spent in France after a European Studies degree at Hull.

“But surely these days you don’t sell the same amount of French wine as when you opened Reserve… the world has moved on?” I ask her. It’s a meant as a tease for her Reserve buyer, Frenchman Nic Rezzouk. Kate is diplomatic.

“Ah, French wine. It is sometimes about identity. Recently we were chatting with a colleague working his way to a Master of Wine qualification. He told us how difficult it was to blind taste between Old and New World wines. The styles were so similar it was often hard to differentiate.”

But then with the New World there has been a backlash since those heady 2003 days. “When we started the shelves were full of big fruit explosive wines from Australia, Barossa Valley Shiraz and the like. Tastes have evolved; nowadays there’s a trend to lower alcohol, more elegant styles. South African, Australia wines are often fresher in style.”

One constant across he two decades of Reserve has been punters’ perennial devotion to Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, followed more recently by the easily pronounceable (and let’s admit it, consistently fruity) Argentine Malbec. What of the third in the wine shelf ‘holy trinity’? “We were discussing it the other day. When we opened we didn’t stock one bottle of Prosecco. Amazing to think back now.”

So what else do we have now we didn’t have back then? “Well, natural wine has only become a big thing over the last decade. And orange wine. Reserve has always attracted curious customers, looking for something different, seeking different layers of story about the folk who make the wine. Sustainability and methods of making wine are important to our customers too.”

English wine? “Making big strides all the time. Sparklers and now still wines. I can recall one of our suppliers in the early days, he brought in a bottle from a new client, Nyetimber. It was the first English wine I’d tasted.  It was really good then and it’s gone from strength to strength, as has the rest of our native industry. Reds were a challenge, but they are starting to blossom. I recently tasted a Bacchus (our aromatic white rival to Sauvignon) and it was so lovely. English wine is still quite niche but it has a bright future and I‘m proud to promote it at Reserve. At Mackie and Alty our basic sparkler by the glass is an Italian, but the next bubbly up is Gusborne from Kent. Gorgeous.”

In the press releasee founder Kate calls Reserve’s 20th anniversary “a monumental milestone – it has always been more than just a shop; it’s a community of wine enthusiasts where everyone is welcome.”

That local wine community extends beyond the one business, mind. “We are not alone in being passionate about giving people options that can guide them on their wine journey,” she tells me. “The evolution of the Manchester scene is remarkable – great people, a vibrant market, more and more tastings coming to us, impressive restaurant  wine lists everywhere. 20 years has seen a huge step up.”

Reserve’s 20th anniversary celebrations

There’s so much going on, kicking off with a private birthday celebration for loyal customers at Reserve Wines, Didsbury on Thursday, February 9, the Winter Wine Fair at Didsbury Sports Ground, with over 100 wines and spirits to taste, the following Thursday, and on Friday, November 17 a 20th anniversary tasting event, exploring Reserve Didsbury’s best-sellers. Check availability via this link.

Plus there are vinous prizes to be won via their social media channels. And with Christmas in mind there’s a variety of drop-in tastings across all the venues.

Time for turkey – Kate’s Christmas tried and tested wine tips

Don’t miss Reserve’s ‘Premium Red Wine Duo’, showcasing the Bodegas Palacio Glorioso Reserva Rioja (£17.50 from Spain – smooth and rich with aromas of ripe red fruits, vanilla and spices alongside the Amie Rouge Carignan (£15) from Southern France, a juicy and fruity wine with pure notes of blackberry, plum and pepper.

What is the Greek for to over-enthuse? I caught up with Jamie Oliver on the box the other night. Primarily because his new Channel 4 series on Mediterranean food kicked off in Thessaloniki, a city I developed a deep love for after a random visit.  Out of it arose an obsession with the country’s flagship red variety, Xinomavro, whose spiritual home is 75 miles north in mountainous Naoussa.

Greece’s second city got 10 minutes of Oliver attention before he heeded the pukka siren call of the Islands and was ferried south. There was no name check of the wine that accompanied the seafront fish platter Jamie gushed over. It may well have been the high profile white equivalent of Xin – Assyrtiko. 

Aldi put it on the supermarket map with a £6.99 version, described by one critic as “like Chablis with super powers”. A snip from a high altitude, sustainable single vineyard, this mainland version ticked lots of boxes – herbaceous, floral, citrussy, a hint of pepper, supple – without ever attaining the saline minerality and complexity, at a premium price, associated with examples from the volcanic vineyards of Santorini, that dazzlingly white holiday haven.

(Those Santorini selling points may soon be in short supply or hiked up in price – the difficult 2023 harvest is likely to yield only 30 per cent of the normal output).

At a Wines of Greece tasting in Manchester, the day after Jamie’s telly Odyssey, there was a plethora (word of Ancient Greek origin) of Assyrtikos from assorted regions, influenced by widely differing terroirs, but remarkably few Xinomavros. There were some 90 wines to sample at Blossom Street Social in Ancoats, so maybe I had been distracted by the whites – Malaqousia, Savatiano, Kydonitsa and the like. Among the reds, though, the stand-out grape turned out to be Agiorgitiko, which is Greece’s most widely planted red varietal. Its origins, though, are in the deep south of the the Peloponnese.

Its nickname is apparently ‘Blood of Hercules’. It doesn’t take a Herculean effort to appreciate its qualities. It reeks of mountain herbs and tastes of blackberry and cherry, usually with some oak spice involved. A beautiful expression on the day was the Nemea Grande Cuvee 2019 (£29.40) from Domaine Skouras, established almost 40 years ago by the redoubtable, Dijon-trained George of that ilk. 

Matching it stride for stride, from young tyro and Nemea neighbour Evengelia Palivou, was Palivou Estate Nemea 2020. It has years ahead of it but already it is a rich expression of cherry, chocolate and vanilla flavours. She and her sister Vassiliki have taken over the running of the 40 acres or organically farmed vineyards. They and the rest of a new, more open generation are the reason Greek wine is suddenly on a surge. Promoting indigenous grapes, rather than pandering to ‘international’ varietals.

A lovely Palivou mission statement of this was on the table. La Vie en Rose is made from 100 per cent Moschofilero. A colleague detected Turkish delight on the nose; I loved the lemon and pear flavours unusual in a pink.

My third and final winery tip from the tasting is Estate Argyros, the largest vineyard owner on Santorini with more than 120 hectares of ungrafted vines up to 200 years in age. It’s now in the hands of fourth generation family winemaker Matthew Argyros and the trio of wines created from his new 2015 winery demonstrated the voluptuousness Assyrtiko can attain.

Expect to pay £50 for the Cuvee Monsignori, 14.5 per cent but beautifully balance packed with flavours of preserved lemons and wild herbs. At twice that price, offering a unique tatse of old Santorini, Assyrtiko combines with fellow native varietals Athiri and Aidani for the heavenly, honeyed Vin Santo Late Release 2002. Sourced from 200-year-old vineyards and aged for at least16 years, it’s very special.

Fenix on the rise in Manchester

Leaving aside perennial reservations about rough taverna retsina, Hellenic wine’s profile has been hindered by the absence of top end Greek restaurants. That will be remedied soon in Manchester by the arrival of Fenix. It’s a complete change of tack from the brothers behind the Modern Chinese fusion brand Tattu.

Fenix’s wine list offers a global roll call of crowd pleasers but the Greek element is shrewdly chosen from some of the country’s highest profile wineries – Thymiopoulos, Gaia, Hatzidakis, Alpha and that aforementioned Skouras Grande Cuvee (it will cost you £67, not a dramatic mark-up). More approachably priced are a series of blends from the Cretan winery Karavitakis, championing that island’s indigenous grape varieties such as Vilana, Vidiano, Kotsifali  Mandilari and Liatiko.

Apostolos Thymiopoulos (above) is the king of Xinomavro in all its styles and an ambassador for all the new wave Greek winemakers. His own wines are widely available (try the entry level ‘Jeunes Vignes’ Xinomavro), An equally charismatic figure was Haridimos Hatzidakis, his life cut short aged just 50 in 2017. Born in Crete, he is credited with putting Santorini wine on the world map after replanting a vineyard abandoned after a 1956 earthquake and releasing his first bottles in 1999. Century-old indigenous vines from volcanic terroir, organic farming and minimal intervention in the winery. Result: Assyrtikos with a challenging saline minerality that I loved from my first sip. Noble Rot’s Shrine to the Vine online shop stocks the family’s single vineyard wines. Start with the Nykteri 2020.

The shortlisted nominees for the 2023 Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards have been announced. The Awards are the most prestigious in the North West and celebrate the region’s outstanding hospitality talent, with winners to be revealed at the MFDF Gala Dinner on Monday, January 29, 2024. 

There are 114 exceptional venues, traders, places and people nominated across 18 categories celebrating a resurgent year for Greater Manchester’s hospitality industry. This year’s roll call takes in the whole breadth of talent flourishing in our region – from talented takeaways and superb street food vendors to Michelin-star dining and some of the newest and most exciting additions to the scene. 

The shortlisted nominations have been compiled by the MFDF Judging Panel, taking into account award submissions from the hospitality industry. The panel is made up of the region’s leading food and drink critics, writers, and experts. The awards are now open to public vote on the MFDF website. 

A ‘mystery shopping period’ will now commence alongside the public vote. During this period judges will visit nominated venues for an incognito dining visit, and will score venues based on their experiences. Then on Monday, November 20, 2023 the polls will be counted and combined with the judges’ scores, and the winner of each category will be chosen. 

The MFDF 23 Award Winners will be announced at the MFDF Gala Dinner & Awards at the New Century Hall (above) on Monday January 29, 2024, tickets for which can be purchased by emailing isabella@foodanddrinkfestival.com. Your hosts for the evening will once again be Matty White of Manchester’s Finest and Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch and BBC Radio Manchester’s Anna Jameson.

To vote please visit this LINK. The nominees are…



St James Building, 61-69 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 6EQ

Lily’s Indian Vegetarian Cuisine

85 Oldham Road, Ashton-under-Lyne OL6 7DF

Bahn Ví

New Century Kitchen, 34 Hanover Street, Manchester M4 4AH

The Walled Gardens

Alness Road, Whalley Range, Manchester M16 8HW


14 Brazennose Street, Manchester M2 6LW

Speak in Code

7 Jackson’s Row, Manchester M2 5ND

Flawd Wine

9 Keepers Quay, Manchester M4 6GL

The Mekong Cat

47 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1JQ


Fat Pat’s

88 Portland Street, Manchester M1 4GX

Ad Maoira

34 Copperas Street, Manchester M4 1BJ

Unagi Street Food & Sushi

10 Park Place, Cheetham Hill, Manchester M4 4EY

Ciaooo Garlic Bread

93-95 Shudehill, Manchester M4 4AN

Wright’s Fish and Chips

86 Cross Street, Manchester M2 4LA

Maida Grill House

38 Liverpool Street, Salford M5 4LT

Al Madina

76 Wilmslow Road, Manchester M14 5AL


18 West Ashton Street, Salford, M50 2XS


Sureshot Brewing

4 Sheffield Street, Manchester M1 2ND

Stockport Gin

19B St Petersgate, Stockport SK1 1EB

Cloudwater Brew Co

7-8 Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester M1 2NP

Tarsier Spirit

Unit A5, Bankfield Trading Estate, Coronation Street, Stockport, England, SK5 7SE

Pod Pea Vodka

Irlam, Manchester

Manchester Union Brewery

96D North Western Street, Manchester M12 6JL

Squawk Brewing Co

Tonge Street, Manchester M12 6LY


Unit 18, Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester M1 2NP



Cotton Field Wharf, 8 New Union Street, Manchester M4 6FQ

Great North Pie Co

Kampus, Aytoun Street, Manchester M1 3GL

La Chouquette

812A Wilmslow Road, Manchester M20 6UH


Ducie Street Warehouse, Manchester, M1 2TP 


15 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1JQ

The Manchester Smoke House

123 Waterloo Road, Cheetham, Manchester M8 8BT

The Flat Baker

Unit 2, 23 Radium Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6AY

Companio Bakery

Unit 6, Flint Glass Wharf, 35 Radium Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6AD











Grapefruit Coffee 

2 School Road, Sale M33 7XY

Cafe Sanjuan

27 St Petersgate, Stockport SK1 1EB

Another Heart to Feed

10 Hilton Street, Manchester M1 1JF

Idle Hands Coffee

35 Dale Street, Manchester M1 2HF

Bold Street Coffee

53 Cross Street, Manchester M2 4JN


105 Manchester Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9GA

Ancoats Coffee Co

9 Royal Mills, 17 Redhill Street, Manchester M4 5BA

Siop Shop

53 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LS



Exhibition, St George’s House, 56 Peter Street, Manchester M2 3NQ

Chaat Cart

Society, 100 Barbirolli Square, Manchester M2 3BD

Triple B

24 Bury New Road, Prestwich, Manchester M25 0LD

Tawny Stores

Yellowhammer, 15 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1JQ

Little Sri Lanken

Reddish, Stockport

Pico’s Taco’s

Mackie Mayor, 1 Eagle Street, Manchester M4 5BU

Oh Mei Dumplings

Fat Pat’s

88 Portland Street, Manchester M1 4GX


Nila’s Burmese Kitchen

386 Third Avenue, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M17 1JE

Great North Pie Co

Kampus, Aytoun Street, Manchester M1 3GL

Cafe Sanjuan

27 St Petersgate, Stockport SK1 1EB

Noodle Alley

Basement Level, 56A Faulkner Street, Manchester M1 4FH

Tokyo Ramen

55 Church Street, Manchester M4 1PD

Lily’s Deli

Unit 2C, Henry Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 5BA

House of Habesha

Central Bay, Unit 32, Quayside, Media City, Salford Quays, M50 3AG

Ornella’s Kitchen

10 Manchester Road, Denton, Manchester M34 3LE


Ad Hoc Wines

28 Edge Street, Manchester M4 1HN

Out of the Blue Fishmongers

484 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9AS

Littlewoods Butcher

5 School Lane, Heaton Chapel, Stockport SK4 5DE

Wandering Palate

191 Monton Road, Eccles, Manchester M30 9PN

New Market Dairy

1 Central Way, Altrincham WA14 1SB

Petit Paris Deli

10 King Street, Manchester M2 6AG

Cork of the North

104 Heaton Moor Road, Stockport, SK4 4NZ

La Chouquette

812A Wilmslow Road, Manchester M20 6UH


Our Place

Platt Fields Market Garden

Platt Fields Park, Platt Fields Market Garden, Fallowfield, Manchester M14 6LT

Tawny Stores

Yellowhammer, 15 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1JQ


Blossom Street Social, 51 Blossom Street, Manchester M4 6AJ

Little Sri Lankan

Reddish, Stockport


Fare Share

Units E1-8, New Smithfield Market, Whitworth Street East, Openshaw, Manchester, M11 2WJ


Ply, 26 Lever Street, Manchester M1 1DW


The Marble Arch

73 Rochdale Road, Manchester M4 4HY

Track Brewery Taproom

Unit 18, Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester M1 2NP

The City Arms

46-48 Kennedy Street, Manchester M2 4BQ

Runaway Brewery Taproom

9-11 Astley Street, Stockport, SK4 1AW

Fox & Pine

18 Greaves Street, Oldham OL1 1AD

Reddish Ale

14 Broadstone Road, Reddish, Stockport SK5 7AE

Station Hop

815 Stockport Road, Levenshulme, Manchester M19 3BS

Heaton Hops

7 School Lane, Stockport SK4 5DE


The Jane Eyre

One Cutting Room Square, 14 Hood Street, Manchester M4 6WX


64-72 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 2BQ

Red Light

4-2 Little David Street, Manchester M1 3GL

Sterling Bar

4 Norfolk Street, Manchester M2 1DW


184 – 186 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3WD

Schofield’s Bar

3 Little Quay Street Sunlight House, Manchester M3 3JZ

10 Tib Lane

10 Tib Lane, Manchester M2 4JB

Flawd Wine

9 Keepers Quay, Manchester M4 6GL


Restaurant Örme

218 Church Road, Urmston, Manchester M41 9DX

Stretford Canteen

118 Chester Road, Stretford, Manchester M32 9BH


132 Bury New Road, Prestwich, M25 0AA

Ornella’s Kitchen

10 Manchester Road, Denton, Manchester M34 3LE

The Oystercatcher

123 Manchester Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9PG


15 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1JQ

Fold Bistro & Bottle Shop

7 Town Street, Marple Bridge, Stockport SK6 5AA

The Jane Eyre

60 Beech Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9EG



184-186 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3WD

Higher Ground

Faulkner House, New York Street, Manchester M1 4DY

Schofield’s Bar

Sunlight House, 3 Little Quay Street, Manchester M3 3JZ

Where The Light Gets In

7 Rostron Brow, Stockport SK1 1JY


8th Floor, Blackfriars House, Manchester M3 2JA

Wood Manchester

Jack Rosenthal Street, First Street, Manchester M15 4RA

Sterling Bar

4 Norfolk Street, Manchester M2 1DW

Tast Catala

20-22 King street, Manchester M2 6AG



8th Floor, Blackfriars House, Manchester M3 2JA

Higher Ground

Faulkner House, New York Street, Manchester M1 4DY

Restaurant Örme

218 Church Road, Urmston, Manchester M41 9DX

Fold Bistro & Bottle Shop

7 Town Street, Marple Bridge, Stockport SK6 5AA

The Jane Eyre

60 Beech Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9EG


Minshull House, 47 Chorlton Street, Manchester M1 3FY

New Century Kitchen

34 Hanover Street, Manchester M4 4AH

Stretford Canteen

118 Chester Road, Stretford, Manchester M32 9BH


Joseph Otway (Higher Ground)

Danielle Heron (OSMA)

Luke Richardson (Climat)

Julian Pizer (Another Hand)

Shaun Moffat (The Edinburgh Castle)

Patrick Withington (Erst)

Seri Nam (Flawd Wine)

Mike Shaw (MUSU)


Higher Ground

Faulkner House, New York Street, Manchester M1 4DY


8th Floor, Blackfriars House, Manchester M3 2JA

Another Hand

Unit F, 253 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN

10 Tib Lane

10 Tib Lane, Manchester M2 4JB


132 Bury New Road, Pretwich, M25 0AA


9 Murray Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6HS

The Spärrows

16 Red Bank, Cheetham Hill, Manchester M4 4HF


42 Blossom Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6BF


Recognising people who have contributed something outstanding to the hospitality industry in Greater Manchester.

Two weeks to Indy Man Beer Con (October 5-8) and a smattering of tickets remain for the UK’s best celebration of craft beer. OK, I’m biased. I’ve attended every one since its inception in 2012. The organisers trumpet it as “a multi-sensory, headlong, hop-forward beer extravaganza.” Which is spot on with 150 plus beers available at each session.

Its venue on Hathersage Road, Manchester, Victoria Baths, has been around much longer. Since 1906. First as a working public pool, latterly as a hugely atmospheric Grade II listed events space. Ticket prices have been frozen for this year’s bash, which as usual features an array of quality street food ballast alongside beers and other drinks (including non-alcoholic). 

The opening Thursday night session costs £14.50, along with the Friday morning 11am to 4pm session, with the weekend daytime and evening sessions at £19. Sunday’s afternoon slot is back to £14.50, and a full weekend pass for all sessions is £75. Check for late availability at this link.

Two waves of breweries attending Independent Manchester Beer Convention 2023 (to give it its full title) have now been announced. The line-up is post-Pandemic less extravagant but still packed with stellar names. My tips: Zapato, Beak, Brasserie de la Senne, Pastore, Tommy Sjef, Neptune, Drop Project and our own Pomona Island, whose (genuinely) eagerly awaited Manchester city centre pub, the North Westward Ho opens for business on Wednesday, October 4. So that will make an ideal base camp for IMBC, if you are staying over in the city.

Keeping loyal to ‘Cottonopolis’, a further exciting arrival this October is Manchester’s Best Beer Pubs and Bars by Matthew Curtis (CAMRA Books, £16.99). Based upon his own sensible displacement from London to Manchester, it is a sequel to 2021’s Modern British Beer, lauded by this website. This will be published on Wednesday, October 18, with a launch that night at Cafe Beermoth.

Before then Matthew (above left) is also involved in an exciting new initiative at Indy Man Beer Con, wearing another hat of his, as co-editor in chief of online magazine, Pellicle, to which I am a subscriber (and so should you be, drinks lovers). Over the four days they will be running a series of live podcasts, featuring sessions including panels of craft beer professionals, including Pellicle co-founder Johnathan Hamilton (above right), brewer at Newbarns in Edinburgh. The sessions, all in the basement beneath the Thornbridge room, are… Thursday 4pm – ‘How Does the Beer Industry Navigate a Cost of Living Crisis?’; Friday 1pm –‘ An Open Discussion About Sustainability in Beer’; Saturday 1pm – Interview and Q&A with David Jesudason, Author of Desi Pubs;  Sunday 1pm – ‘The Great Craft Beer Debate 2023’.

The one I hope to attend is the Saturday event, focused on Desi Pubs, a ground-breaking CAMRA Books publication, a guide to the British-Indian pubs that have sprung up throughout the UK since the 1960s. Its author, David Jesudason, spent months travelling the length and breadth of the country, to unpack the idea of the British pub as an institution and how Desi Pubs have built on this, as various communities have sought to create safe, inclusive spaces for themselves.

The book makes a fascinating companion piece to Desi Kitchen by Sarah Woods (Michael Joseph, £30), which explores the culinary evolution inside various second generation sub-continental communities across the UK. Check out my round-up of a whole new genre of ‘ethnic’ cookbooks.

Meanwhile, I’m cleansing my palate ahead of Indy Man after sampling many of the 38 smoked beers on offer at the annual ‘Smokefest’ at Torrside Brewery, New Mills, Derbyshire. It was a showcase for the subtlety and sophistication of this niche pathway. Variety is all in the brave new world of brewing.

My friend Matthew Curtis has a new book out on Wednesday (October 18, Manchester launch at Cafe Beermoth). The incomer from Lincoln, now a proud Stopfordian, has dared to write a book entitled Manchester’s Best Beer Pubs and Bars.  My blog view on it. It should be an absolute corker on the evidence of its 2021 predecessor, Modern British Beer (Buy it from CAMRA Books, £16.99).

The above is wagyu steak on sourdough toast. Charred thick slices, smeared with mustard mayo, scattered with radish discs, IPA pickled gherkins and those tiny capers that explode on your tongue. The wagyu? Marinated in (making a welcome return to the limelight) coal oil. I was expecting an ashtray element from the coal oil marinade, but, no, the flavour was all subtle mesquite. It’s a kind of delicious homage to Simon Rogan’s signature dish at The French a decade ago. The one that has Times critic Giles Coren swooning: “I tell you what, I would walk to Manchester barefoot in the rain for one more mouthful of the chopped raw ribeye of ox in coal oil.”

Did the wagyu on toast  make up for the absence of Squid Bolognese on my return to Fold in Marple Bridge near Stockport? Most definitely. That ‘deconstruction’ was touted as their signature dish back at their March launch, but it has obviously not stood the test of time as the menu has evolved. Maybe it had vague roots in the great Pierre Koffmann’s fishy riff on spag bol, but here ribbons of squid mimicking pasta in a rich ragu with garlic bread didn’t quite hit the mark. Still there’s langoustine scampi fries (in a scampi fry crumb) with lobster aioli and chip shop croquettes to champion Fold’s playful nostalgic takes on  snacks and classic dishes.

All this and my vote wasn’t enough to leapfrog this smart addition to Marple Bridge into the Good Food Guide’s 100 Best Local Restaurants 2023 list.In that particular bunfight a place called Tallow in Kent was national number one. And I’ve no quibble with Manchester’s rather lovely The Spärrows scooping the top North West award with Fold just missing the 100 Best cut. Still I did feel that various city centre establishments that squeezed it out didn’t qualify as ‘local’.

Sean Finnegan’s self-styled Bistro and Bottle Shop on Town Street certainly does. It attracts the morning coffee crowd as much as the wine aficionado seeking a leftfield bottle.

Certainly you can snack on a roster of small plates or make a special evening occasion of it. Just five minutes (steep) walk to Marple Station and it’s a rapid 20 minutes to Piccadilly. Though if you make the trek, as I did for this second time, you’ll find yourself jostling with a seriously local clientele. That’s my definition of neighbourhood. Fold’s exec chef Ryan Stafford actually hails from Marple, but the culinary palette he works from is the opposite of parochial. This former Masterchef finalist is often back in London for his lucrative day job as a private chef (for world leaders, rock stars and folk with expansive yachts). That means that head chef Craig Sherrington (Great British Menu) has the dominant say in the upcoming autumn menu. 

I hope he keeps those croquettes, in particular. On the outside they could be any old fried object on a corporate menu. Bite into them and they are a delicate thing of wonder, a chippie madeleine (sic) moment when shards of monkfish, a Champagne chip shop curry sauce, smashed peas and malt vinegar dust cohere. 

There are so many joys among the cold plates and snacks, but don’t ignore the hot plates. Maybe £21 for Exmoor caviar on baked jersey royals with mashed potatoes brings a touch of Paris’s Kaspia Caviar to Marple Bridge but I’d recommend instead a generous helping of salt marsh lamb with a classic summer accompaniment of peas, beans, gem lettuce and tarragon (£22) or ‘China Town’, a sensational salt n’ pepper sea bass dish (£24).

All this and a terrific drinks selection from craft beer to natural wine and beyond. That wagyu on toast found its perfect match in Thistledown She’s Electric, an organic old bush vine Grenache from South Australia’s McLaren Vale. A Fold plus that sets it apart from many other casual small plate rivals is that bottle shop wine list.

For the record, this is my Best Local Restaurant (even though it’s trek away from my locality).

Fold Bistro and Bottle Shop, 14-16 Town St, Marple Bridge, Stockport SK6 5AA.

A head for heights? Most certainly as long as I‘ve a cocktail in my hand or, better still, a series of small plates arriving against a panoramic backdrop. To satisfy my needs, every high rise development these days seems to come with a rooftop bar or restaurant. At the Manchester version of Soho House, due later this year, they are even throwing in a swimming pool eight storeys up below its bar and I note that the ubiquitous Gino D’Acampo has been getting in on the act over in Liverpool, opening an eponymous Sky Bar Terrace at the top of the INNSiDE by Meliá hotel.

It may be that city’s highest alfresco restaurant and bar, but at 270 ft it’s a mere molehill compared with the tallest viewpoint I’ve visited – Chicago’s Willis Tower, the Western Hemisphere’s third highest building at 1,730ft. One caveat, its Sky Deck with jutting-out glass Ledge is the same height (1,450ft) as the top of that old stager, New York’s Empire State.

Both dwarf our own Shard in London, which stands at a mere 1,020ft. One advantage is that the 72nd floor viewing gallery is partially open air, offering views of the pinnacle, as well as 360-degree views around the building. I’m still gob struck by how tiny Tower Bridge looked from 800ft above.

All of which brings us to Manchester’s 20 Stories, whose major selling point is its huge outdoor terrace and bar (with appropriate shelters for when the city’s weather lives up to its reputation). At 300ft, it’s a glamorous, stunning spot to take in the ever-changing skyline and cityscape (see main image). You can understand its appeal as a special place for a drink and a people watch. The wine list is arguably the best in town, but food quality has been variable with a constant change of head chefs since its inception in 2018. 

I dined there recently, road-testing their new five-course tasting menu, available Monday to Thursday, 5.30pm-8.pm. It started well with a vegan opener of broccoli steak with horseradish and lemon, but after that it didn’t live up to its £65 a head price. A better bet is to pick from the more casual Terrace Menu, perhaps mixing and matching tomato, basil and parmesan arancini, truffle fries and BBQ flat iron steak tacos with a tipple or two from their Aperol Cocktail Menu.

Black Friar, Salford – keeping it down to earth

Casual and al fresco is a good way to go in this sweltering summer and the maturing  ground-level garden of the re-born Black Friar is a choice spot, even if there is no view to speak of. Well, who would want to ogle the traffic hurtling down Trinity Way? By chance, it has chef connections with 20 Stories. Aiden Byrne, launch chef there, was scheduled to do the same for the Black Friar but pulled out around Pandemic time; his replacement Ben Chaplin came from… you guessed it. 

His 20 Stories fine dining pedigree was obvious when I first sat down to eat in the newly planted garden with its big fence two summers ago. A couple of dishes were over-elaborate for what was aimed as a gastropub. The menu has since settled down  from trying to balance all this with ‘pub classics’, maintaining high quality ingredients while  taking fewer risks.

It is good they are still making the most of their urban greenery, though when we went recently to sample their summer ‘Garden Menu’ gusty showers weren’t doing it any favours.This particular menu is served straight from the outdoor bars, so we benefited from its canopy and ski heaters. And a couple of goblets of holy Gavi to heal the soul. There’s a choice of three amply topped flatbreads, including an artichoke version for vegans, who can also dive into a Falafel Friar Bowl. Alongside the charcuterie and cheese platters sat our big extra temptation, definitely not plant-based: Honey-glazed Ham Hock with Welsh rarebit and pickled onions. The Black Friar is very generous with its pickles and, alas with a mountain of coleslaw that accompanied the hock. As a £17 sharing plate this was a meal in itself. We took the half-stripped bone home with us. Combined with yellow split peas and stock, it formed an un-seasonally  ballasting soup that lasted us all next day. As blazing sunshine reappeared.

Queen Bee with a red dot, signature vol au vents – it must be Climat

The other end of Blackftriars Street and Chris Laidler is showing off his stings on the rooftop terrace of Climat, now home to four hives and 40,000 bees, including a Queen, marked with a red dot. The wine-led restaurant’s founder and his exec chef Luke Richardson also brought back from Hampshire a further 50,000 bees that are now ensconced at their respective homes in Wrexham and Chester – all contributing honey to Climat and sister restaurant Covino in Chester, a place I also really love.

Chris tells me they expect the total of 90,000 bees will swell to 500,000 over the summer before reducing in size to weather the winter months. He’s resigned to the occupational hazards of bee-keeping – despite wearing the full gear to handle them. He’s more worried that there’ll be enough opportunities for his charges to pollinate in Manchester city centre, even though it’s leafier than you think.

And there is competition. Chris points across the road to the roof of the car park behind the brutalist former Ramada Renaissance, slowly being transformed into the Treehouse Hotel. Here Manchester Cathedral have installed a total of 10 hives in addition to the six already on the cathedral’s roof producing ‘Heavenly Honey’.

It’s amazing what your eye takes in from a great height. On the eighth floor of Blackfriars House, Climat actually benefits from not being up in the stratosphere. I prefer the more intimate nosiness of being level or slightly above rival rooftops, so you don’t miss intricate features. Seen from the outside terrace (well away from the swarms) or through floor-to -ceiling plate glass. Perhaps with a 500cl carafe of Bourgogne Aligoté at your elbow – ‘is that honey on the nose?’ – and a signature vol au vent while awaiting a small plates parade of what Luke dubs his ‘Parisian expat food’.

I called it my winter wonderland windfall. The Christmas before last I won the Christmas draw at Tipples of Manchester. Delivered to my door, before Santa had even harnessed up the reindeer, £1,000 worth of mixed spirits, genuinely artisan stuff. The gin quota has long since gone, servicing my Negroni habit, ditto the Donegal vodka to create my Bloody Mary of choice, while the bourbons/whiskies assiteded greatly in my quest for the perfect Old-Fashioned. Bizarrely the handful of bottles that remain in the cellar are primarily of rum, which I like to sip neat, the darker the better, but only when the weather is braw.

Still I have been a touch neglectful. It’s not as if I haven’t been a champion of rum in my writing. Take this article from five years ago  – Getting the Abbey rum habit in the heart of old Barbados. . Or from my last overseas trip before lockdown – Spice up your life with a rum ramble around  St Lucia (2020). The previous year I’d even dared to question the hegemony of gin in the company of rum’s great and good – Dark Spirits. Rum Rocks, but could it take over from gin? Who could doubt the wisdom of one of those gurus I quizzed, Ian ‘Rum’ Burrell, of Channel 4 Sunday Bruch fame: “My three favourite rums are the one in my glass, the next one, and a free one”?

On Saturday, July 8. World Rum Day, comes the chance to live that dream (on repeat!) as Manchester Rum Festival returns to the Mercure hotel, Piccadilly. The 2023 version looks packed with delights. Check out the exhibitors here. It’s not just about access to some truly rare tipples. Also part of the package are Caribbean Street Food from Nyammin’ and calypso-inspired DJ sets. With some hats and shirts that awesomely get into the spirit of it all. Tickets are great value at £25 plus booking fee for seven hours of spirited exploration (12pm-7pm). Buy them here.

A big bonus is the chance for fest revellers to purchase a one-off, limited-edition bottle of the official Festival rum, which is a collaboration with Outlier Distilling Company of the Isle of Man. Named ‘Punk Croc’, this 41% limited edition blend is a Manx rum with a cask-aged bite. Blended exclusively from rum made in Outlier’s 160L wood-fired still, Punk Croc features rum aged in Sauternes, New American Oak and Islay casks. Perfect for Mojitos and Daiquiris with attitude, the bottling will only be available at the festival.

Additionally, Distillers Direct will be joining the summer festival with a very special limited edition single cask of Chairman’s Reserve Rum, which has been produced in partnership with The Drinks Trust. Festival founder Dave ‘Drinks Enthusiast’ Marsland is brand ambassador for St Lucia Rum, whose flagship product is Chairman’s Reserve.

 The UK’s largest rum distillery, DropWorks, which is based on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire, will be making their very first rum festival appearance after launching at the latter end of May! They bring in the finest molasses, ferment it with their own cultivated trinity yeast strain, distil it in their bespoke stills, then blend and mature it in their own barrels across their three unique ageing locations.

Also debuting at the festival are Rhum JM, an historic rum from Martinique in the Caribbean with a super sustainable background focusing on biodiversity and the preservation of nature, and Takamaka, the first ever rum from the Seychelles to join the Manchester line-up. Two rums from Madeira  – 970 and Tristão Vaz Teixeira – will become the first brands ever to exhibit from the Portuguese Island. Manchester debuts too  for Ron Piet from Panama, Tilambic from Mauritius, Eminente from Cuba and Paranubes from the mountainous Oaxaca region in Mexico and Bone Idyll – a rum distillery based in less exotic Kingston upon Thames.

A Proustian madeleine moment? With hops? Not quite. The lager in the iconic Budweiser Budvar tankard glass flaunted all the right credentials, including the distinctive huge frothy head, bringing back glorious travel memories. Yet the taste was subtly different from what you’d expect of the classic Czech beer. 

Adam Brož, the brewmaster of that state-run enterprise was at my elbow to explain their unique link-up with Derbyshire’s finest, Thornbridge. Our native Golding hops and Maris Otter malt give Czech Mates (a bit of an ouch name, but hey) its own tang, benefiting from the legendary Budvar yeast. Cheers – or, as they say in South Bohemia ‘Na zdraví’!

Budvar’s first ever collab outside its home country is not meant to replicate the original. At 4.8 per cent it is weaker and the maturation period is shorter, though considerably longer than most lagers including even Czech rival Pilsener Urquell. And don’t even mention the dreaded American Budweiser, which perennially bombards Budvar with legal challenges over the brand.

I am at a Czech Mates launch night in a Thornbridge tied house in Leeds, The Bankers Cat, and Budvar global ambassador Ridem is generously plying us with samples of Thornbridge’s crisp, well balanced labour of love. Like Adam, he is delighted that I have visited their iconic brewery in České Budějovice. I tell them how it was the final destination of an eye-opening pilgrimage to the Czech Republic (or Czechia as it now styles itself). That was in 2016. My previous visit to their country had been in 1976, just eight years after the Prague Spring and the Soviet crushing of Czech dreams of freedom. How different it all felt…

A land of fairy tales and golden lager

Advent Sunday in Český Krumlov (main picture) and the bells are ringing. The first sighting of blue sky in this most misty of autumns in South Bohemia has lured me out into the old town before breakfast. Winding alleys that had breathed mystery after dark are equally entrancing by day. Who needs Prague when you can have a place like this to yourself?

Except around the corner comes a selfie-driven Japanese coach pack. UNESCO World Heritage status means off the beaten track just doesn’t happen these days. Still this historic city, set in a horseshoe bend of the River Vltava (Moldau) and lorded over by an immense 13th century castle, wears its tourist honeypot trappings lightly. 

We are 170km south of the Czech capital, not far from the Austrian border. This has been territory fought over for centuries. When Germans ruled the roost it was called  Krummau an der Moldau just as the region’s main centre, České Budějovice, was Budweis (hence the brewery name, more of which anon). 

After the collapse of the Soviet empire and the splitting of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia Český Krumlov arose from decades of decay like some Sleeping Beauty. Which seems quite apt in a land entwined in folklore and fairytale.

Especially around Christmas when it all takes off. Well, Flying Baby Jesus does. When the Velvet Revolution kicked out Communism there was a rush to introduce Czechs to that burly guy in red with the white beard. They were having none of it. Their festive bringer of gifts is Ježíšek, variously depicted as a baby, toddler, and young lad (see the image below from a church we visited). 

On Christmas Eve families deck the tree and share a traditional Czech dinner of carp and potato salad, then the children are sent to scan the skies for Ježíšek. When a bell rings they rush back to find their presents have arrived.

Snacking on the Christmas Markets

The Czechs have the highest beer consumption in the world – 129 litres a head. Their food, from pretzels to goulasch via dumplings, sauerkraut, grilled meats and sausages, seems custom-built to match the foaming brews.

We were there at Christmas Markets time, more home-made affairs than the ersatz ones inflicted on the UK every November and December. In both Český Krumlov and České Budějovice I sampled these Czech snacks for the first time:

Trdelnik: a hybrid of cake and sweet pastry made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with a sugar and spice mix.

Sazanka: a thin omelette on rye with gherkins and browned spring onions.

Kapri Hranolky: carp fries, the fish chunks spiced with cumin and ginger then floured and deep-fried. Delicious with a noggin of mulled mead, but I opted for a bottle of Krumlov’s own local beer, Eggenberg. 

Green man riding a catfish and other tall tales

My best present was discovering the unanticipated wonders of Český Krumlov. After being captivated by the view from the Castle of its close clustered rooftops encircled by the river came the defining focus of the stay: the Fairytale House – Puppet Museum. Here you could learn about contemporary puppeteering, even try your hand, but it is the marionette mausoleum aspect – some tableaux dating back to the 18th century – that captivated. Czech childhoods seem populated by sprites, witches and demons. None more creepy than the water spirit ”vodník”. This green man riding a catfish drowns unwary folk and captures their souls in a jar. 

Equally spooky is the White Lady who haunts the Castle and makes appearances in the nearby Hotel Růže. If the spirit is smiling, good news will follow; if she looks serious, and wears or carries black gloves, the news will be bad. Legend has it she threw herself off a cliff when her father refused to allow her to marry the man she loved.

Another Krumlov story, much more horrific, featured deranged Don Julius, bastard son of the Hapsburg Emperor Rudolf II. When he took up residence in the Castle in 1607 he was joined by the local barber’s daughter, Markéta Pichlerová, with her family’s permission. 

Tiring of her, he beat her up and threw her from a turret window – she escaped death only because a rubbish heap broke her fall. After she recovered from terrible injuries, the tyrant demanded her back – and then cut her into tiny pieces. In subsequent captivity in the Castle he degenerated into a human wreck and was probably murdered on the Emperor’s orders.

Near the knuckle – St Reparatus and Egon Schiele

A dark past but visiting the Castle nowadays is a jolly experience. The exuberant Baroque theatre is only open for occasional concerts and the two resident bears penned below the battlements are coy about showing themselves, but the 29 room Museum in the colourful tower is equally colourful and eccentric. Don’t miss the reliquary of St Reparatus, his bones gaudily embellished by nuns.

Just as near the knuckle is some of the raw, explicit imagery inside the Egon Schiele Art Centrum. The Austrian painter died in the Spanish flu epidemic, at just 28, in 1918, the same year as his inspirational mentor, Gustav Klimt. This gallery in a former brewery exists because Schiele’s mother came from the town and he spent time here, enraptured by the Bohemian forests, before being driven out because of his bohemian (as in unorthodox) lifestyle. This is charted in exemplary fashion alongside changing exhibitions of current artists.

The Museum Fotoatelier Seidel is an altogether sedater affair. This house/studio of early 20th century photographic pioneer Josef Seidel is a time warp with its abundance of original cameras and props. He was a chronicler of a pre-war, pre-Soviet age and the images are fascinating. 

All these attractions are within close walking distance. The best passport to seeing them is the Český Krumlov Card, covering five museums and the Krumlov monastery complex. For a single adult it costs £15

Czech craft beers and a castle crammed with antlers

Visiting castles is bound to work up an appetite… and a thirst. Hluboká nad Vlatou, 10km north of České Budějovice, is home to a very stately pile. The 13th century Hluboká Castle was transformed into its current Neo-Gothic Windsor look in the 19th century by the Schwarzenberg family. They had downsized from Český Krumlov Castle to this 11 tower, 140 room, glorified ‘hunting lodge’. In the hall the Schwarzenbergs pose en masse in a family photograph of the time, the menfolk itching to get away and blast the life out of all the stags they can bag. You can’t move for trophy antlers and gun racks throughout the public rooms, only the odd manic boar’s head breaking the plush monotony. 

There are various tours on offer, after which you will probably be ready for a  substantial repast at the village’s characterful restaurant, Solidní Šance. Specilaity is potato pancakes stuffed with cabbage and pork. The house strudel is benchmark stuff, too. To accompany there’s a range of unfiltered and unpasteurized ‘Czech-style craft beers’ brewed in-house at the Pivovar Hluboká, using Budvar yeast, Czech or Bavarian malts and Žatec hops. Go for their Žatec semi-early red, if available.

Some 20km to the west of České Budějovice is another UNESCO heritage gem, the model village of Holašovice. Ranked around a village green are several dozen houses refashioned in the 19th century in the ‘Folk Baroque’ style aping noble mansions. Think lacy, colourful gables.

I’m told the number of houses has remained constant throughout Holašovice’s  800 years of existence and most are still lived in by villagers. Two taverns, a chapel and a blacksmith are here to serve them, and No.6 of the 17 farms in the village offers a fascinating collection of bygone rural tackle. Thought-provoking indeed our lugubrious guide’s demo (without animal) of how to castrate a sheep.

Our journey’s end – the refreshing city of České Budějovice

But then the whole trip was full of quirky revelations. The main purpose of our visit to České Budějovice 25km north of Český Krumlov was to visit the brewery but on a guided tour around the town every building seemed to boast an odd back story. Climb the 250 steps to the top of the Italianate Gothic-Renaissance Black Tower (1577) and you are rewarded with a spectacular view over Budějovice’s vast main square and the Blanský Forest in the distance. The abiding memory, though, is of the goat who once shared the tower apartment with the guardian.

Walk over to Piarist Square. On one side is the steeply gabled Salt Warehouse, once an armoury, today a motorcycle museum. Inset randomly in the facade are three reliefs of stone faces, believed to represent a trio of thieves beheaded.  On the other side, high on the exterior of the Church of the Sacrifice of Our Lady, a frog-like gargoyle bulges just below the roof. It recreates a frog crawled into the foundations of the Dominican church during construction and kept causing the church walls to crumble; in the end, it was ejected from the foundations. It is said that its sculpture used to be placed lower, but the stone frog has been crawling upwards step by step until it reaches the roof and then the church will collapse and it will be the end of the world.

An equivalent doom will arrive when the vast underground lake that supplies the perfect, pure soft water for making Budvar beer runs out. It’s not going to happen any time soon but it’s a nagging long-term quandary for the state-owned brewery that upholds the country’s beer traditions, lagering (slow conditioning) its top-fermented, burnished gold beer for 90 days in comparison with just 25 for arch-rival corporate-owned Pilsener Urquell in the northern town of Plzeň, where the classic beer style was created.

Budvar are meticulous, too, in sourcing locally only pale Moravian malt and Saaz whole hops (not the pellets used by most brewers, even the of the artisan craft persuasion). It was a glorious sight watching hops being loaded into one of the gleaming copper vessels.

So does Budvar Budweiser taste better at hallowed source?

At the end of our Budvar Visitor Centre Tour we tasted the end product in the cellar. Patiently conditioned and unpasteurised, lacily frothy fresh from the tanks, it lived up to Garrett Oliver’s tasting note in his magisterial Oxford Companion to Beer: “Refreshing, showing a rich malt and vanilla aroma, and fine, floral hop character. The finish has a fine balance of juicy malt, tangy hop resins, and a delicate hint of apple fruit.” Quite.

Oliver touches at length on the decades-long legal wrangling over naming rights with the US brewing giants Anheuser-Busch, who produce their own (vastly inferior) ‘Budweiser’ and Bud Lite. At the height of the squabble Budvar was saved from a takeover by them after the intervention of then president Vaclac Havel and today worldwide sales are soaring. In the fairy tale land of Bohemia they like happy endings.

Budějovický Budvar Brewery, n. p.K. Světlé 512/4 370 04 České Budějovice. To plan your (highly recommended) Brewery Tour visit here. End your tour with a meal at Budvar’s own restaurant 100 metres away on the corner of Pražská and K. Světlé streets. The rich, dry Budvar dark lager is a consummate match for the house speciality, goulasch. For full tourism information about Czechia visit this link. Jet2.com fly regularly from Manchester to Prague. České Budějovice is two hours south of the Czech capital with Český Krumlov a further half hour away.

My memories of Indy Man Beer Con 2022 remain vivid, culminating in a desperate tumble down uneven Edwardian stone steps as I scrambled to use up my remaining drinks tokens at the end of the Saturday afternoon session. Miraculously, like some charmed mountain goat, I arose unscathed. Most of my tokens had been spent at the 3 Fonteinen stand, supping their sublime Belgian qeuzes. I hope this year’s emphasis on sustainability at the UK’s best craft beer festival doesn’t preclude such overseas legends.

This year’s IMBC, returning to Manchester’s Victoria Baths for its 10th year, is all about discoveries. Last year’s joyful event introduced me to the ‘honeyed epiphany’ of wasp yeast. Thanks Wild Beer Co (a sign of the difficult times for the industry it has since collapsed into administration).

There’s already a sweet smell of success about Indy Man 2023 (October 5-8). Tickets, frozen at 2022 prices, went on sale on Thursday, May 18 and already both Saturday sessions are sold out with tickets ‘running low’ for both Thursday and Friday evening sessions. There is greater availability for the Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoons, where tickets cost £14.50, as opposed to £19. For true devotees there are also Full Fat tikcets for all sessions at £75. To snap up your slot before it’s too late (plus advance deals on token bundles) visit this link. Breweries involved will be named nearer the time. International participants will have to guarantee their beers are transported to the festival in a way that uses the most carbon efficient modes of freight.

Tokens will function in the same way as they did in 2022: namely, that it’ll be one token for one third of a beer across all three days. Organisers will also be reinstating the ability to sell back unused tokens to the festival at the end of each session. Which could save this over-keen punter from ale-addled dismemberment!

Sup up! Communal beer fun before Indy Man

Real ale diehards will, of course, home in on London’s Olympia for the Great British Beer Festival (August 1-5). Personally, I find supping on this kind of scale overwhelming. More manageable is a local CAMRA event such as the 35th Stockport Beer Festival (June 22-24) at its new venue, the Masonic Guildhall. One of the best trad gatherings, it promises over 250 beers ciders and perries. 

Still, I don’t expect I’ll make it there either, but I have purchased advance tickets for two delightful festivals at once under the radar breweries, respectively in Lancashire and Derbyshire, that book-end big brother Greater Manchester.

Rivington Brewing Co Farm Trip (August 31-September 3)

I’ve voiced my admiration before for this farm-based craft brewery with its scenic hilltop beer garden. Across one special long weekend they fill it to the brim to showcase their favourite beer peers. This year they welcome over  60 breweries from across the globe, pouring across 50+ lines, natural wines, gin and cocktail bars, local street food vendors and live music. Book here. There is availability (£12.50) on the opening Thursday and the Sunday (Family Day) and a few tickets for the Friday, but Saturday is sold out. Also a limited amount of caravan/campervan packages remain.

Torrside Smokefest (September 16-17)

Franconia is the German home of Rauchbier. Hence this single-minded New Mills brewery have named one of their beers after it, brewed with 85 per cent smoked malt. Each year across two eight hour sessions they replicate the Bamberg heartland of this style. You have to book in advance an there are £15 tickets left for the Sunday. Book here. For your £15 you get a memorial glass and your first distinctly smoky third, then access to over 20 similar tipples plus smoked toppings on your pizza.

Summer Beer Thing (June 30-July 2)

Meanwhile, there’s always Indy Man’s little brother, which used to be based in Sadler’s Yard before Cloudwater Brewing picked up the Pilcrow and turned it into Sadler’s Cat. Now  Kampus’s canalside garden will be host its eclectic range of craft beers from across the UK. A big plus in this buzzing urban neighbourhood are ballast options from the likes of The Great North Pie Co, Nell’s Pizza, Madre and Pollen Bakery. Tickets for the three weekend sessions range from £6 to £10 (including branded glass). Buy them here.

Poretti, Moretti, Peroni? As if they were concocted on a Scrabble board (big score for Mezzogiorno, but I digress), all those big Italian beer brand names sort of morph into one generic light lager. That’s what they taste like to me. Still, on a (let’s pray) sunny August Bank Holiday Weekend in Manchester’s Cathedral Gardens they hit the spot to accompany pizza slices, arancini, even gelato. Yes, Festa Italiana (August 25-27) is back for its sixth outing. With, you guessed it, sponsors Poretti offering a new upfront attraction.

Equally refreshing is the presence of newer blood at the demo counters. Yes, there will be returning veterans such as Jamie Oliver mentor and UK brand ambassador for Parmigiano Reggiano Gennaro Contaldo and Giancarlo Caldesi (Return to Tuscany, Saturday Kitchen, Sunday Brunch), alongside Festa founder Maurizio Cecco. But they will be joined by rising stars such as Great British Bake Off 2021 winner Giuseppe Dell’Anno and Masterchef UK 2021 quarter-finalist/ICG Cooking Competition Award winner Sofia Gallo. Another huge Festa fave is pastaia Carmela Sereno Hayes offering pasta classes for all ages.

The line-up has been announced in a week when Maurizio has also been celebrating the first birthday of the latest outpost of his Manchester empire, Salvi’s, set among the four colossal towers of Deansgate Square. Prosecco and Poretti (naturally) flowed freely at the big party in this sleek, buzzing restaurant.

Festa Italiana offers an alternative immersion in all things authentic Italian and gastronomic . Think al fresco meets dolce vita in the shadow of the National Football Museum and the Corn Exchange. Street food and workshops aplenty. Music is also very much part of this very family-friendly, free-to enter festival. Want to sing along to That’s Amore? Or Tu Vuo’ Fa L’Americano?At the live music stage your chance will come. Possibly fuelled by ample sips of Poretti…

The Birrificio Angelo Poretti will be pouring at its ‘iconic Piazza’, pairing its beer with food at a sit-down dining spot. This ‘Grande Tavole’ experience is a ticketed event on Saturday 26th with the area open to all on Sunday 27th.