I started a new job in February and as a farewell present, my colleagues at my old work very kindly booked me tickets for a Cloudwater Brewery Tour. Ah, they know me so well!
Along with the gift, they printed off this article in the Manchester Evening News about Cloudwater being rated as the second best brewery in the world. I had sampled their beers many, many times however I’d never been on the tour, so I was really excited to learn more.
Last Saturday the day finally arrived and we headed over to the Cloudwater Brewery, based at the Piccadilly Trading Estate. I’d been to the actual brewery itself once before as it used to open as a tap room on a Saturday before they opened the Cloudwater Barrel Store on Sheffield Street. I’ve heard that the plan is for the tap room to re-open next door to the brewery quite soon, but I’m not sure exactly when that will happen.
The tour began at 10.45am and we were immediately offered a choice of two IPAs as we arrived. My boyfriend and I both went for the 2.9% option instead of the alternative, which was pretty strong at 6.5%. Neither of us had eaten any breakfast, choosing a lie in instead – definitely not advisable before going on a brewery tour!
One thing that I thought was really good is that everyone on the tour was told that they could help themselves to beer throughout. We didn’t top ourselves up again because we knew there would be more tasters later, but I felt that it helped add to the relaxed atmosphere of the tour.
We were very lucky to be visiting the brewery on a brew day, which we were told rarely happens at the weekend. The reason they were brewing on a Saturday was due to something going wrong during the brew on the Friday, something else we were told happens quite rarely, with only around 1 in every 90 brews going wrong. I am no brewing expert, but I thought this was pretty impressive, especially considering how many different beers the brewery produces.
Cloudwater doesn’t have a core range of beers and instead makes seasonal beers, using ingredients that are readily available. For example, they wouldn’t tend to brew a strawberry beer in the winter and would usually brew darker beers instead. As of last weekend they were on there 425th recipe – not bad in only three years!
The first part of the tour focused on a brief history of Cloudwater, as well as a general overview of the brewing process. We were actually stood inside the main brewery floor during this part, but did have to move eventually so the brewer working hard that day could continue with his work. Like on most other brewery tours I’ve been on, we got the opportunity to try different types of malt used during the brewery process and various different types of hops were also passed round for us to break apart.
It was then time for the best part – the guided tasting! We got to try two different beers: one was a pale ale brewed with mango and the other was an IPA, which if I remember rightly was made with Centennial hops. I really liked both, but the second one was particularly delicious and went down far too easily.
Towards the end of the tour, our guide gave everyone the chance to ask him questions. This was really interesting as it provided the opportunity to understand so much more about the brewery. For instance, although Cloudwater is only three years old, it’s such a well thought of brewery that I had just assumed it’s quite big, however that’s not the case. Although it is growing in notoriety and has increased the size of its team, it is still a relatively small brewery. They don’t export their beer at all at the moment except for special events. I asked our guide if they’d noticed a difference in demand since they were named second best brewery in the world. He told us that this had made some difference, however demand has been growing since early 2016 and that the brewery is now producing five times more beer now than it was then. There was a group of people on our tour who had come all the way from Seattle too, so their reputation is clearly spreading far and wide.
We also learnt more about hops. Apparently it’s not as simple as breweries being able to pick and choose what hops they would like to use each week, but instead they have to take out a “hop contract” which lasts a year. I also found out that Citra hops – the most expensive in the world – cost £28 per kilo! Perhaps I’m being a bit nerdy here, but I found it all fascinating.
The tour was now coming to a close, but the fun wasn’t quite over yet. At the beginning we were all given a token which could be exchanged for a beer of our choice at the Cloudwater Barrel Store, around a 5-10 minute walk away from the main brewery. We made a quick food stop on the way and then headed over. I had the MCR DIPA CITRA BBC which was a bold and tasty choice full of tropical flavours.
I had a brilliant time at the Cloudwater Brewery Tour and would recommend to anyone interested in brewing, enjoys drinking good beer or is looking for something different to do on a visit to Manchester.