I’m doing something I hoped I would never have to do on Almost Ginger – write a negative review. Well, not negative, just not an overly positive one. If I’m travelling or trying something new, it’s really difficult for me to not see the good sides. Especially as I’m so good at doing my research beforehand. But I really wanted to enjoy the Microbrewery Experience with Manchester Brewery Tours and unfortunately, I just didn’t.
I want to point out that I appear to be in the small minority of people who didn’t like this brewery tour, looking at all the reviews on TripAdvisor. So, I’ll do my best to explain what it was I didn’t like. And, whether or not I think other people will feel the same. We’re all different, after all, and a lot of things are circumstantial and deserve the benefit of the doubt.
This is my personal review of the Microbrewery Experience with Manchester Brewery Tours.
Microbrewery Experience with Manchester Brewery Tours
What is included in the Microbrewery Experience with Manchester Brewery Tours?
Manchester Brewery Tours offer two different types of tour: the Microbrewery Experience and the Beer Tasting Tour. So, this is a review of the former. Upon first viewing, the front page of their website indicates you will be visiting three breweries on the Microbrewery Experience with a guide: Beer Nouveau, Alphabet Brewery and Track Brewery.
However, click on ‘Dates and tickets’ and you’ll discover the last stop isn’t visiting Track Brewery, it’s a drink at Track’s Taproom. So, you start at Piccadilly Tap (just a meeting point), then visit two breweries and a taproom. Several (I think four or five) drinks are available at Beer Nouveau, two halves at Alphabet and one at Track Taproom.
In terms of how you spend the tour, much of the four hour-tour is taken up at Beer Nouveau (like 2-3 hours), one hour at Alphabet and finishing around/slightly after the finishing time at Track Brewery.
How was Beer Nouveau Brewery?
It’s initially a bit of a walk to Beer Nouveau from Piccadilly Tap, but only about 20-minutes and those kinds of things don’t bother me. And meeting in Piccadilly Tap is a convenient place for people to meet who a) like beer and b) might not know Manchester very well. It’s a bar right near the train station, so it’s perfect. After spending about 30-minutes at Beer Nouveau, it becomes glaringly obvious that Beer Nouveau is willing to do a heck of a lot more for tour-goers than any of the other breweries for probably the same financial compensation. Hence why the tour spends so much time here at the start.
Steve, the head brewer/owner of Beer Nouveau is the main reason why people on TripAdvisor love this tour. He’s uncensored, has lots of opinions and knows a crap tonne about beer. Steve is clearly passionate about his business and brewing beer. There isn’t a question he doesn’t answer honestly and people love him for it.
I will say (and I think he will too) that the stories he tells are interesting but can be a little all over the place. If you know nothing about brewing, you might be completely lost. And be aware there is no ‘tour’ to speak of as we all sat around tables for the duration. So, I’d call this part of the tour purely a tasting and a lesson in tasting different hops, grains, etc. Which was genuinely interesting! I just think he skipped over a lot of key information that would have lost people for whom this was their first brewery tour. But like I said, a lot of other tour-goers really liked Steve and his anarchist approach to craft brewing.
Beer Nouveau’s Beers
And both of those things (the many hours we spent at Beer Nouveau and lack of tour) wouldn’t bother me if I liked any of the beer. But I didn’t like any of the beer. I can’t emphasise enough how rare this is that I don’t like one beer offered to me, even a little bit. They were the Ellen Wilkinson, Peterloo, a flat lager from a 200-year-old recipe I can’t remember the name of and one or two others. I really don’t remember. I think the main reason I didn’t enjoy these beers is that they’re from crazy-old beer recipes or they were more like ales. It’s not craft beer in the way we know it now.
I didn’t really like that the beer was offered in jugs and we all had one glass and we were expected to finish the glass to use for the next beer instead of being handed another glass. On other beer tours, you’re able to finish the beer at your own pace and the next beer is served in another glass. I know, it’s easier and more environmentally friendly to reuse glasses. But when I tried and failed at finishing my glass of Peterloo, I had to ask one of the guides for another glass and I felt like I was being a bit difficult.
Because the tickets are so expensive (more on that later) I felt compelled to drink as much beer as possible to get my money’s worth. And I don’t particularly like drinking pint after pint of beers I don’t like. I don’t drink beer because I want to get drunk, I drink beer because I bloody love beer. But it’s important to remember that taste is completely subjective and you may love Beer Nouveau’s old school ale.
And what about Alphabet Brewery?
Funnily enough, Alphabet Brewery was the highlight of my tour and the lowlight for everyone else on TripAdvisor. Do you know why I liked it? Because Alphabet Brewery Company seems like a more typical craft brewery and we were treated to an actual tour and learned about the equipment, business, etc. which I really enjoyed.
We also tried two half pints of beer (A to the K is a lovely IPA and I also tried a nice stout I don’t remember the name of), which I think is more than enough! I know, I know. Unpopular opinion. More beer is always better, right? I personally just don’t see the point in going to a brewery tour to get smashed. There are literally hundreds of pubs in Manchester that will do a far more efficient job for far cheaper. I go on brewery tours to learn about that brewery’s history and business and sample (not chug) as many of their beers as possible.
I just felt Alphabet did a much better job of matching my personal expectations. But as I said, TripAdvisor reviewers would disagree with me. They would say this part of the tour was much duller than the first. I personally think it depends on how into craft beer you are.
I loved Runaway Brewery’s Tour in Manchester! Check out my review here:
Track Brewery’s Taproom
There’s not much to say about Track’s Taproom because we didn’t really do much. The tour guides lead us to Track Brewery’s Taproom and one pint was included in the tour. We didn’t speak to anyone and I’m not even sure what the name of the beer I was given was, though it was a very delicious stout! And I would definitely return to the Taproom, seems like a really nice place for a pint on a Saturday afternoon.
When I first looked at this tour in November 2018, three breweries were definitely visited. It’s only when I look at the Manchester Brewery Tours website after the fact that I see they’ve updated the information. I completely understand that breweries change their minds, increase their prices, whatever, and things have to change. I just don’t see why another brewery wasn’t arranged. Actually, I do see. With Beer Nouveau taking up so much time at the beginning of the tour, fitting in another brewery within the four hours would be completely impossible.
And, I honestly don’t think I could have visited another brewery anyway because I couldn’t drink another pint. Too much beer can be a bad thing.
Who is the Microbrewery Experience with Manchester Brewery Tours actually for?
This brewery tour is not for die-hard fans of craft beer or those seeking an informational, geeky beer tour. You’d be far better off heading to the Brewery’s Taprooms when they’re likely to be open on a Saturday and see if there’s a brewer you can chat too. It would be far cheaper and you’d get much more out of it.
It’s no surprise that the vast majority of people on this tour were either on a Stag do (or just a lads big weekend in Manchester) or had been given a voucher as a present. Two huge groups of men were on my tour and two couples, and one of the couples were definitely given vouchers. If you’re not particularly interested in craft beer, or if you’re planning an activity for a group trip to Manchester, then this brewery tour may be the tour for you. But actually, I would just go with the Beer Tasting Tour. £10 cheaper and all of the beer without any of the standing around looking at kettles and learning about fermentation processes.
Practical Information, Tickets & Vouchers
The tour runs every Saturday from 13:00-17:00, but think you’ll end up leaving Track Taproom a bit later. You’ll walk around 1.2 miles during this tour so make sure you’ve dressed appropriately. And that includes clothing because breweries can be cold places, even in summer.
Tickets cost £40 per person excluding booking fees, and I would book as far in advance as possible, especially in summer. I personally think £40 is way too much and you’d be better off just heading to every taproom on the list and buying the beers yourself. Honestly.
If this tour spent 90 minutes at Beer Nouveau, 90 minutes at Alphabet and 60 minutes at Track Brewery (or another actual brewery) and each brewery offered two/three half pints each, it would make all the difference! I just left the Microbrewery Experience having learnt about one brewery and having drunk one or two nice beers. But that’s just me! You can make the decision and judge it for yourself.
And that’s my completely honest review of the Microbrewery experience with Manchester Brewery Tours. Have you done this or any other brewery tour? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments below!