Words by Pedro Cotzier
As part of the Manchester Beer Week City Clash, which will see six brewing teams from five cities go head-to-head in a unique competition, we asked beer writers from around the country to tell us what makes the beer scene so special in their cities. This week, Liverpool Beer Week organiser Pedro Cotzier takes a look at the city at the other end of the East Lancashire Road.
Summing up a city's beer scene in a few hundred is a tricky proposition for anyone, regardless of what UK city they are writing about. With Liverpool, as has possibly been written before, it has a very unusual background. Given it's population size, history and how it stands out as a recognisable 'global brand' due to a few things, oddly beer doesn't tend to be one of them.
The scene in Liverpool has, since the 1980s, been dominated by one or two breweries with the likes of the recently resurrected Higson's, Cain's and before it's recent closure, Liverpool Organic flying the flag for beers brewed on Merseyside. Now, however, things are built on a wider foundation, with more breweries in the city region than has been seen since before the second world war.
The rise of breweries across the UK has seen a similar rise in Liverpool and across the Merseyside region, with a solid foundation of meticulous cask brewers such as Red Star and Rock the Boat being complimented by breweries that do not restrict themselves to a single dispense method like Neptune, Melwood and Chapter, right through to those who are dedicated to serving more experimental kegged beer like Mad Hatter. Sadly, Liverpool has recently lost the spiritual home of where 'craft beer' started in the city, with the 23 Club closing its doors, but there has been a proliferation of great bars and brewery taps opening to soothe the heartache.
The city centre pubs and bars such as The Grapes, Craft Minded, the Dead Crafty Beer Company, Fly in the Loaf, Hard Times and Misery, Handyman and CRAFT Taproom all provide ample support to discerning drinkers and many more are supporting our local brewers. Planning a visit to Liverpool has never been easier in terms of finding great beer too, as there are a raft of places beyond reputable big-hitters for beer in the city, each with some wonderful character and a good selection of beer.
For a day or night out in its own right, the former industrial area of the Baltic Triangle has also seen new bars, taprooms and breweries making a home there, providing such breadth and depth to the scene despite the loss of the Baltic Fleet's Wapping Brewery from the area. Down the road from the city centre, the regeneration of the Smithdown Road area is seeing some very exciting stuff happening too, a handful of pubs have recently been joined by a great craft beer bar and a cracking brewpub, with more venues on the horizon.
Liverpool really is poised to make some serious waves in the next couple of years in terms of its brewing and position in the wider UK scene. Growing, transitional, fluctuating and vibrant are probably the watch-words for what is happening in the city at the moment! You could easily spend a few days in Liverpool as a tourist; finding many pockets of good beer, interesting surroundings and great people - this is all that makes Liverpool as a UK beer city.