From Rammy choc fest to Tom Kerridge's Pub in a Park - here's a handy guide to this year's best food and booze fests
There are plenty of exciting food and booze gatherings taking place all over Greater Manchester in 2018, from chocolate celebrations to beer bonanzas and food fiestas. There'll be celeb chefs hitting town, a pub festival in a park and the annual gatherings in Manchester, Bolton and Castlefield. Oh and hundreds of vegans, don't forget the vegans.
Here's your handy guide to the best of the region's food and booze festivals 2018:
BEER & CIDER FESTIVAL - Manchester Central (25-27 Jan)
Forget dry January, this annual three day beer and cider festival will help you drown any winter blues whilst educating you on the ways of the brew. Most beer festivals, including Oktoberfest and Indy Man Beer Con, seem to be clustered around October-time, but this huge Beer & Cider Festival saves you the wait. It’s a unique opportunity to get round as many of the 700 beers and ciders (700!?) from across the world which will be on show. There will also be an abundance of street food, talks, tastings meet the brewer opportunities and, of course, beards.
RAMSBOTTOM CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL - Ramsbottom (24-25 Mar)
Rammy’s famous choc fest turns double figures this year, celebrating a decade of promoting artisanal cocoa goodness. The weekend dedicated to all things chocolate is a well-known, fun-filled family event involving a chocolate-themed street market with artisan chocolatiers and bakers around the beautiful town of Ramsbottom. You’ll also find a children's area with face painting, a family fun area with crazy golf and paint ball and, in good weather, a lovely picnic area for alfresco dining by the River Irwell. Many of Ramsbottom’s restaurants, cafes and bars also get into the festival spirit by including special chocolate-themed items on their menus.
NORTHERN VEGAN FESTIVAL - Manchester Central (Sat 7 Apr)
The Northern Vegan Fest has just been voted in the UK’s top two vegan festivals. The one day festival crams in informative talks, inspirational cookery demos, children's activities, yoga classes, free samples and a huge seated cafe area. You’ll also find around 200 meat-free stalls and caterers serving a range of globally inspired plant based cuisine. Entry is £5 payable on the day on the door (under 14's go free) - 100% of ticket money goes to animal welfare charities, as the festival is fully volunteer run. You can also pay £15 for advance fast track tickets to receive a goody bag packed full of products, samples, discounts and offers available from firstname.lastname@example.org
CASTLEFIELD FOOD FESTIVAL - Castlefield Bowl (May - dates TBC)
Now in its fourth year, Castlefield Food Festival is set once again to fill Castlefield Bowl by the canal with a dazzling array of tastes, smells, sights and sounds for a whole weekend in May. This unique urban food festival has a reputation for serving up a great range of street food alongside stalls manned by some of the best local farmers and producers in the UK. Liquid refreshment will be offered in the form of real ale, craft gin and quirky cocktails in the many on-site bars. Every year they come up with a cook-along with a different theme (last year’s was about foraging and camp side feasts) and the demo kitchen zone will give punters the opportunity to pick up some tips from a few local professionals.
FESTA ITALIANA - Cathedral Gardens (13-15 July)
The city’s first festival of Italian food, drink and culture has announced that it will be returning for a second year. Manchester’s Italian community will once again transform Cathedral Gardens into ‘Little Italy’ creating a city centre oasis of ‘la dolce vita’ in a weekend-long celebration of all things Italian. Inspired by the traditional festivals over in Italy, the free to attend Festa is all about the community coming together to socialise, eat, drink and dance. The 2018 event promises a more in-depth education around Italian food and culture with hands-on master classes. There will also be more for the kids via the “Bambini Cucina” – a children’s food festival all of its own. You’ll find plenty of Italian producers and street food stalls, a number of one-off banquets and a live music stage.
BOLTON FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL - Bolton town centre (August Bank Holiday)
While many Greater Manchester towns have annual food festivals, Bolton’s is by far the biggest. Classed as one of the UK’s leading culinary events, over 267,000 people attended last year to enjoy its sprawling citywide market, lively events programme and celebrity chef appearances. Last year's event incorporated beer and pasty tastings with local celebrity chef Simon Rimmer, a wine tasting with Ainsley Harriot and a pop-up restaurant by Aiden Byrne. It’s always held over the August Bank Holiday Weekend, so expect another veritable feast for 2018.
FESTEJAR - Albert Square (Aug/Sep - dates TBC)
Now in its fourth year, Festejar is a three-day fiesta from the makers of Festwich and The Instituto Cervantes, inspired by all things Spanish. For three days, the hub in Albert Square hosts wine-tasting, street food stalls, taster classes in Spanish and salsa dancing, a Latin American percussion workshop, flamenco demos and more. Cheaper than a flight to the Costa Del Sol, you've got yourself a weekend of Spanish experiences, new flavours and sounds.
TOM KERRIDGE’S PUB IN THE PARK - The Heath, Knutsford (7-9 Sept)
Following the success of his first ever Pub in the Park festival, which took place in Marlow last May, Tom Kerridge is planning to take it on tour, bringing the event to three more locations, including Knutsford, in 2018. The original festival, which featured a stellar line up of chefs, pubs and music, sold all 18,000 tickets within 24 hours. Kerridge and his chef mates will be bringing pop-up versions of his Michelin-starred pubs, The Hand & Flowers and The Coach, to The Heath in Knutsford. A selection of other top UK pubs and restaurants will also be there serving pop up versions of their most popular dishes.
MANCHESTER FOOD & DRINK FESTIVAL - Citywide (Sep/Oct - dates TBC)
First conceived in 1997 to ‘show the rest of the nation there was more to Manchester dining than the stereotypes that existed at the time’, MFDF has morphed into a culinary showcase of much worldlier proportions over the last two decades. As the event turns 21 in 2018, we’re expecting one of its juiciest offerings yet. Expect well-known faces, chef demos, special banquets and a few surprises. The hub in Albert Square is where you’ll find the bulk of the action, from the massive beer tent to street food stalls, the chef theatre, brewer talks, food and drink authors, wine merchants, and more.
INDY MAN BEER CON - Victoria Baths (Sept/Oct - dates TBC)
The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (known as Indy Man Beer Con or IMBC) is a world class showcase for the best breweries from the UK and beyond. Once again, it will take over the stunning surroundings of the Grade II listed, architectural gem Victoria Baths for its seventh year in 2018. IMBC brings together the most progressive, forward thinking breweries from across the UK, Europe and USA for a multi-sensory, headlong, hop-forward beer extravaganza.
To go with it, expect a better than ever food offering of the best street food stalls. The whole thing, organised by Jonny Heyes and the team behind Common, Port Street Beer House and The Beagle, transcends the beer festival norm. You can also download the new IMBC app via iTunes or Google Play.