Back in 2008, when I started exploring the ‘blogosphere’ I stumbled across an America beer website – “The Brewclub” – and offered my services as a British/European beer correspondent. I enjoy beer, have a reasonable palate and consider myself to be a competent writer.
Heck I even joined the British Guild of Beer Writers.
Since then, on behalf of ‘The Brewclub’, I have reviewed beers from as far afield as Japan, the Caribbean, Mauritius, Indonesia and Norway. In fact, I’ve reviewed brews from some twenty five countries outside the UK. Some I’ve loved, a few I’ve hated, but I never shy away from trying something different.
So, when I read that a new ‘entertainment venue’ – ‘The Bierkeller’ – was opening in Manchester, I simply had to blag an invite to their opening.
The Bierkeller is located in Manchester’s ‘ Printworks’ – a leisure complex that comprises about twenty bars and restaurants (including the aforementioned Hard Rock Café), a gym and a 20 screen cinema (with iMax). The building, as the name suggests, used to house Europe’s largest newspaper printing house.
As for The Bierkeller, there’s a reasonable sized bar on the ground floor, but the real action is, as you might expect, in the cellar.
The main attraction is clearly the Bier Keller, a large drinking hall with long wooden benches seating over 200 drinkers, waitresses in dirndl dresses, and a massive 9 metre (27 foot) video wall. They promise (threaten?) authentic ‘oom pah’ band music every Friday and Saturday evening, but I think I’ll pass on that.
And if the dirndl clad waitresses are too slow serving you your two pint (plastic) steins, then you can sit at a booth with your own pre-loaded bar tap serving the house lager (Flensburger – a competent 4.8% ABV Pilsner from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany).
Elsewhere in the Bierkeller complex there’s ‘Shooters’ a sports-bar with pool tables and screens showing the big sporting events. There are more than twenty HD TV screens around the complex.
However, for me the highlight simply has to be ‘Around the world in 80 beers’. The stated concept of the bar is “to assist the beer lover in their quest to reach ‘beertopia’… that mythical state achieved only when all of the world’s beers have been sampled, absorbed and digested”. While I don’t consider myself a fan of bars with ‘concepts’, this did sound like fun.
And yes, there are over a hundred beers on offer, some on draught, most in bottles. They’re listed by region – Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, Oceania and South America – and boasts brews from Iceland, through Ethiopia, South Korea, Guatemala, New Zealand and Peru. A quick scan suggests that to date I’ve tried seventy four, leaving me plenty to investigate. As well as re-acquainting myself with some old friends.
Oh, and the food is geographically themed, from Kangaroo Burgers, through Quesadillas to Thai Tempura Prawns.
The idea of the voyage to ‘beertopia’ continues with the map-book, you collect a stamp for each world beer you sample, and when the book is complete (!) you are entered into a draw for a round the world trip, visiting breweries in each region.
Overall I like the BierKeller, it’s an interesting idea, and it’s been delivered well. I have no doubt that the main hall will be crammed at weekends, but I also recognise that I’m probably not their target market – thirty years ago, maybe!
That said, I received an invite to the Bierkeller for one of their promotional evenings… after several (two English pint) steins of Flensburger I found myself dancing along to the ‘Bavarian Stompers’ while suppressing an urge to sing ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’.
That was, with the best will in the world, an aberration. But the ATW bar, now THAT is a concept that I can get into, and fully intend to, while my sojourn in Manchester continues.