Tag Archive for: Track

Glastonbury 2002’s over. Just the stragglers still dispersing as the litter clearers descend. The wag who flew a ‘Work Event’ flag by the Pyramid stage has furled it up and taken it home with his washing, probably still humming ‘Hey Jude’.

My big festivals preview was about the beer variety. Hence my rallying cry: ‘Go Aleish, not Eilish!’ Though several fests have already been and gone the thirst for such communal participation shows no sign of abating and what is great to see is the emphasis on championing our local brewing operations.

Prominent among these is Track Brewing Co, which has never looked back since upsizing from its Piccadilly railway arch to large and stylish new brewery and taproom in Ardwick, Manchester. . They seem to be leading the way with collabs with other breweries and recently significantly upgraded their food offering by hosting a kitchen takeover by Liverpool-based restaurant group Maray, who are close to opening their new Manchester venue in Lincoln Square.

Food is a big deal in the first of two further Manchester mini-festivals they are helping generate this summer. Beers In The Garden will take place in Platt Fields on Friday and Saturday, July 8-9, curated by Track and Cheltenham’s Deya and featuring stellar names such as North Brewing, Burning Sky, Verdant, Pressure Drop, Newbarns, Donzoko and, a personal fave, St Mars of the Desert.

The food on offer? Pizza from Honest Crust and barbecue from Where The Light Gets In. The MUD kitchen will prepare dishes using ingredients from the garden there and Levenshulme’s ISCA will offer seasonal dishes and natural wines. The will be four sessions; tickets at £10 available here.

On Saturday, August 27, celebratinga successful first nine months in their new home on the Piccadilly Trading Estate (and the arrival of their beer garden), Track bring us Welcome to the Neighbourhood. There are two sessions with tickets £40 a head, to include all DRAUGHT beer at the festival, a glass and a programme. Tickets available here.

For your money you’ll have access to beers from an amazing array of North West stars – including Track, of course, Rivington, Sureshot, Balance, Red Willow, Pomona Island, Chain House, Bundobust, Squawk, Runaway, Cloudwater and Blackjack – plus DJ and street food. 

The first four days in September see the bucolic Farm Trip festival. Venue a hilltop farm-based brewery above Horwich I have lauded previously For its outstanding views and brews – Rivington (founder Ben Stubbs, above). Their first Trip was hastily assembled in 2021; the follow-up is more measured, promising 120 beers poured through 41 lines. Do check it out.

It’s a nice little autumn chaser before the eagerly anticipated return of Indy Man Beer Con  at Victoria Baths (September 29-October 2), the UK’s best craft beer festival. Capitalising on its absence last year, the Manchester Craft Beer Festival, is heading back to Mayfield Depot, across the weekend of July 22-23. Expect fire pit food and sizzling sounds from Goldie and David Holmes. All a bit high octane for me and to get full value beerwise out of the £55 session ticket you have to be a very canny queue hopper. The likes of Marble, Track and Union Lager are representing Manchester, but this is very much a national brand that straddles several UK cities.

Before then another metropolitan cuckoo descends. Camden Town Brewery Tank Party Roadshow is nesting at neighbouring Escape to Freight Island on Friday, June 24 and Saturday 25.A single brewery tour hardly counts as a festival really, even coming with its own raft of DJ and street(ish) food. The selling point is its unfiltered version of Hells Lager with an estimated 23,000 pints being poured ‘fresh from the tank’ during the Party’s parade across the UK. Camden’s owners, ABV Inbev, the world’s largest brewing operation, sure know how to market a very ordinary product.

I’d recommend, in these difficult times for our breweries: Think Local, Drink Local.

Denver, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Boston, and in a few one horse towns in between, the magnet of new wave American brewhouses and tap rooms has proved irresistible. So much less concentration required compared with serious winery tastings. Not that I don’t take beer seriously – but more as serious refreshment. No swirling, sniffing and spitting involved.

Sonoma County in California, with its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, is the laidback alternative to Napa. It’s the New World wine country of my dreams. If recent trips have involved dodging raging bush fires or coastal fog stifling the Pacific’s famous sunsets, well every paradise can slip into occasional purgatory.

But why would you name a signature beer after Sonoma, as Manchester brewers Track have? Could it be the presence in county seat Santa Rosa of Russian River Brewing Company, whose Pliny The Elder, technically a double IPA, is one of the most sought-after beers on the planet? For any geeks reading, it’s named after the Roman natural philosopher, one of the first to reference hops in his writings.

My own go-to West Coast IPA, on a less stratospheric level is Racer 5 from Bear Republic in downtown Healdsburg 15 miles north of Santa Rosa. Malty but hoppy, floral, resinous and bitter, it has always made me happy as did the original Bear Republic brewpub, now forced out of an upmarket tourist town because of running costs.

Clever Track Brewing Company in Manchester for opening their new tap room at Unit 18, Piccadilly Trading Estate, definitely not a tourist honeypot but, close to the equally revered Cloudwater at 7-8. I’ve loved their Unit 9 taproom as a cool space, but Track’s (see pictures below) has trumped it. It is quite beautiful. Seven years after launching in a Sheffield Street arch, and a succession of not quite appropriate bars, it has a home fit for its beers.

And at the recent launch Sonoma Pale Ale, as befits a beer synonymous with contemporary Manc beer culture, was available as both keg and cask. 

I prefer it as cask. All my lockdown beer dreams were of hand-pulled real ale, hopefully  through a tight sparkler. These came true when I interviewed Matthew Curtis about his Modern British Beer (CAMRA Books, £15.99). A superb range of Cloudwater beers were on the lines at Sadler’s Cat but I stuck to three pints of cask Sonoma, described by Matthew in his book as “A beer that revels in the softness of a smoother pour, while losing none of its strolling-in-a-citrus-grove character. Its gentle ABV of just 3.8% also makes it accessible.” No wonder it accounts for half of Track’s production.

Matthew was at the preview with us. Unlike Track founder Sam Dyson, who is laid up with a horrendous fracture sustained playing five-aside, and wife Mel, in the final throes of pregnancy. We toasted them royally in their absence across a beer range that is testimony to Sam’s love of hoppy American beers. And the Patel Pies residency provided the necessary ballast.

• If you love breweries with an on-site bar and great food check out another new arrival in Manchester, The Bundobust Brewery. And it does its own facsimile of Racer 5. Here’s my welcome to it.