Beer, mocktails, sodas and more for dry January bandits
It’s January and you can drink what you want. You can have a dry one, a wet one or somewhere in the middle if you really want to. We don’t mind either way. Be the master of your own universe, booze or no booze.
There will be those among you who are intrigued by what the no and low alcohol world has to offer beyond supermarket shelves this January. Others will also feel a moral duty to support pubs and bars in light of tough December.
Thankfully we’re now living in a post Becks Blue world. Although it’s not feasible for most bars and pubs to stock anything more than a modest selection of low and no alcohol options, there is a range of drinks out there beyond the 0% alter-egos of the mainstream lagers. They’re better than you might think too.
Here’s our pick of where to drink low and alcohol-free beers, mocktails, sodas and other substitutable ferments across Manchester.
Alcohol-free Beer (0.5% and under)
In this day and age, most pubs and bars will do you an alcohol-free beer. The big brewing corporations have seized upon a growing market so no matter where you touch down, you can expect to see the alcohol-free versions of the mainstream lagers. I mention this because if you want to go watch the football but don’t fancy lime and soda or a Coke, it’s handy to know that BOX on Deansgate has Peroni Libera 0% on.
If you’re looking for a tasty step up from the mainstream lagers, keep an eye out for bottles of Lucky Saint or cans of Jupiler 0.0%. Bundobust Brewery, Cloudwater Unit 9 (draught), The Refuge and NAM (draught) stock the former whilst Society, Tariff & Dale and Heaton Hops deal in the latter Belgian cans. Served cold, they go towards hitting those crisp, refreshing notes of a standard lager.
No and low alcoholic beers are the norm in Germany, and have been for a while, so alcohol-free versions of notable Weisse beers and fruity radlers are worth trying. Schneider Weisse Alkoholfrei, available at Bundobust Brewery and Society is a common one. Albert's Schloss is well-versed in this area too, stocking bottles of Paulaner Hefe Weisse and the German Pilsner Jever Fun. Flensburger Radler at Nell’s at Kampus comes with a big thumbs up as does Infinite Session Pale Ale which in its canned form, joins The Hilary Step's strong AF line-up.
Moving onwards to IPA territory and Tariff & Dale has a solid duo. As well as Lervig No Worries, a Norwegian IPA that also comes in different fruit flavours, it also stocks cans of So Lets Talk x Tiny Rebel, Speak Easy IPA which is a collaboration fronted by a non-profit promoting mental health awareness and better work practises in hospitality. Win win.
Unsurprisingly places that tend to do great beer also make an effort with the non-alcoholic ones. Beermoth has a whopping eight fresh options from dedicated non-alc brewery BRULO and Port Street Beer House also has BRULO’s Lust For Life DDH IPA on tap. The recently launched SEVEN BRO7HERS AF Pale Ale, the brothers' first foray into alcohol-free, is also well worth a dabble, with cans and draught available at all of their beerhouses.
If you’re going to drink Brewdog Nanny State, at least drink it whilst listening to a solid soundtrack at Movement Bar on Tib Street. Hawksmoor has Thornbridge’s 0% Zero Five pale ale in canned form too.
There are also takeaway options. The Epicurean in Ancoats has a trademark beer library of options, stocking the likes of Vanderstreek, Beavertown’s Lazer Crush, Tiny Rebel’s Clwb Tropicana and Big Drop’s Galactic Stout. Online Manc indie Cat In The Glass also stocks the likes of Athletic Brewing, Big Drop and Good Karma.
The Moorcock Inn at Norland Moor meanwhile, although admittedly out of town, deserves a paragraph of its own. With a non-alcohol beer list that rivals the dedicated bottle shops for choice, the selection boasts three stouts, two sours, and over ten lagers and IPAs. It also stocks booze-free cider.
Low Alcohol Beer (3.5% and under)
If you’re on the lookout for low, 3.5% ABV and under, Manchester’s got a lot to offer. The good news is you can’t move for Schöfferhofer Weizen Grapefruit (2.5% ABV). The extremely sweet and moreish spiritual lovechild of lager and Fanta Fruit Twist is on tap at Port Street Beer House and Nell’s Pizza at Kampus. Most places have it on tap or in can form now.
So Lets Talk x Tiny Rebel, 86 The Silence Radler (2.5%), the other half of the aforementioned mental health charity’s beer collaboration is available at Tariff & Dale and The Lead Station. If you’re into your fruity low ones, The Crown & Kettle has both Alphabet Brewing Co’s The Boysen Back In Town Fruit Sour (3.5%) and Aloebirra’s Jungle Fruits Fruit Beer (3.5%) on tap, both of which are great for sweet tooth-minded drinkers.
Squawk Pink Lemonade Shandy (2.6%), a collaboration between Manc brewers Squawk and Steep Soda, is a raspberry sour-based grown-up shandy on draught at Port Street Beer House.
Table beers come into their own in this arena and Track’s Tuya table beer (3%), as well as the bottles of The Kernel Table Beer (2.8%) at Bundobust Brewery are personal favourites. Fell in Chorlton does a wonderful Raspberry Tart (3.5%) Berliner-weisse, Cloudwater’s Happy! (3.5%) pale ale is excellent for a session and Blackjack’s Fruit Sour (3.3%), an autumn seasonal, is worth copping if you see it around.
Having sampled a few questionable mocktails last year, we understand the apprehension surrounding the mocktail scene but Ducie Street Warehouse’s alcohol-free Negroni stands out amongst its peers. Hawksmoor calling its alcohol free range “Temperates” instead of mocktails immediately takes a certain cocktail umbrella and sparkler edge off things with an Aecorn Spritz of Aecorn Aperitif and Yuzu Soda topping a brief menu that includes ingredients such as ginger drinking vinegar, homemade pineapple soda and Ceder’s alcohol-free gin.
Dishoom’s ingenuity shines through on its mocktail list, with non-alcoholic takes on the Tom Collins, Mojito and Espresso Martini with descriptions that carry the transportive qualities of a luxury hotel brochure. Bundobust again channels the same level of passion for no meat as it does for no alcohol in its mocktails.
Schofield’s continues the theme of beacons of passion mirroring the quality of the alcoholic offering. The Dove (rose, pink grapefruit and lime) makes our mouths water from afar on a menu that also has a stalwart Virgin Mary on it. The Peach Tea Spritz at Nell’s comes with a glowing recommendation from one peach-loving member of the Man Con team and the Smoked Pear Mule at Tariff & Dale comes with personal praise from this writer. Pot Kettle Black and Evelyn’s are also good spots for no and low concoctions.
Three Little Words' Pepper Don't Preach is also on our list to try this January. A Mediterranean-style mocktail made with grilled red pepper shrub, hibiscus and black pepper syrup, and pineapple juice. Topped with NO-secco and ginger ale. Punny name too.
Non-alcoholic spirits and wine
The non-alcohol scene can be guilty of being too sweet at times so it’s again handy to know BOX on Deansgate will do you an alcohol-free gin and tonic if you’re avoiding tooth rot whilst watching sport. Hawksmoor nearby also stocks the Aecorn brand of alcohol-free aperitif.
Arlo’s in the Northern Quarter is a welcome haven for non-alcoholic wine with a big selection considering the rarity of the product. Reserve delivers on this front too, with a comprehensive alcohol-free wine selection that covers all your favourites taking in Riesling, Shiraz and Pinot Gris. Reserves also stocks the big non-alcoholic spirit names including Seedlip and Pentire.
Le Social has intriguing low alcohol options from Copenhagen-based Muri Drinks. Passing Clouds (0.4% ABV) is a wine alternative that combines the fermentation techniques of kombucha, kvass and wine.
It’s a trip out, but this is again where The Moorcock Inn deserves plaudits. If you’re after something mimicking a Campari or vermouth, you'll find Martini Vibrante and Lyre’s Italian Orange. Domaine des Grottes L’Antidote is also available, “the best alcohol-free wine out there!” if they do say so themselves.
Soda and ferments
There’s been an explosion of sodas of late and this month marks the return of multiple collaborations from Manchester’s Cloudwater. Three collaborations for January, including one with Bundobust, join the Brewery’s permanent selection of alcohol-free sodas. If you can’t make it to the tap or the Sadler’s Cat, Le Social has a few bottles of Cloudwater’s Red (0.5% ABV) soda.
We’ve written at length on Manchester’s thriving soda scene but names to look out for include Hip Pop Kombucha (formerly Booch & Brew) which can be enjoyed at Mackie Mayor, Port Street Beer andAlbert’s Schloss amongst other places, and Steep Soda which has its cans spread across the city and beyond at the likes of The Station Hop in Levenshulme, The Northern Type in Eccles and House of Hops in Swinton.
If Kombucha is your thing The Moorcock has given it the run of its menu with classic Kombucha served in champagne flutes as an alternative to sparkling wine and various flavours from Hebden Bridge’s Equinox served tall with ice. Caroline and Isobel at Isca in Levenshulme also make their own.
No list of anything Manchester with the word ferment in it is complete without a nod to Stockport's Where The Light Gets In. The restaurant has long offered an alcohol-free wine flight alternative with its tasting menus and options range from ad-hoc juices to kombucha and infusions. The restaurant also has a bank of ferments, and similar long-life concoctions, that's dipped into when the non-alcohol menu needs changing up.
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