I remember the day I took my son for the first pint like it was yesterday.
I got him a Guinness, he didn’t like it so I drank it. Then I bought him a Carlsberg, he didn’t like that either, so I hit that back too.
It was the same with Bass, Budweiser, Tennent’s, Coors Light and Stella. I’m honest, when I left the pub I could barely push his stroller.
As you may have guessed, I’m inclined to have a good pint every now and then, so imagine my delight when I was invited on a beer tour in Manchester.
The city’s brewing scene has exploded in recent years, with more new craft breweries than you could shake with a bag of hops.
The Craft Beer Tour Manchester takes place every Friday and Saturday afternoon with friendly guides who take craft beer lovers on an unforgettable journey through Manchester.
It costs only £ 35, is an absolute bargain and 50p from every person on the tour will go to Big Change Manchester and help eradicate homelessness in the city.
The three and a half hour tour takes you to four different producers and introduces you to local experts who provide fascinating insight into their products.
All of the beers you try are unique to the venue, and it’s a great opportunity to learn more about each brewery and its history – and make new friends along the way.
Some microbreweries visited are not always open to the public so it is a great opportunity to get in and try the products as fresh as possible.
Our four stops were Beatnikz Republic, Seven Bro7hers, Blackjack Brewing Co and Fierce and were full of laughs and information thanks to the really excellent tour guide Lee
The beer selection was all top notch but the beer of the day for me was Seven Bro7hers’ Sling It Out Stout.
This rich, decadent stout is brewed from upcycled Kellogg’s Coco Pops – yes, you read that right.
Of course, if that doesn’t excite your fancy, you’ll be happy to know that Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are used to replace some of the wheat grain in the beer mix during the mashing process to make their single-use IPA, while Rice Krispies replace the malted barley their Cast Off Pale Ale.
Add a few slices and a fried egg to this scenario, and breakfast could potentially take a completely different turn each day.
Unsurprisingly, I was quite hungry by 7pm and was just able to walk to the excellent Escape to Freight Island.
Located on the platform of the former Mayfield Railway Station, Escape to Freight Island is a sprawling outdoor and indoor venue that features brilliant live music and events alongside street style food and drinks from multiple independent vendors.
It’s wonderfully relaxed and ordering food and drinks via an app couldn’t be easier – even after an afternoon of beer tasting.
As it brings together some of the UK’s best restaurants and chefs under one roof, you will really be spoiled for choice as to what to eat.
Whether Basque cooked live fire from Baratxuri, fresh, healthy Vietnamese dishes from Mi & Pho, New York pizza cakes in Voodoo Ray’s, classic Italian dishes in the Belzan Pasta Kitchen, vegan delicacies in the Plant Grill, tacos in the Madre or if you want burgers and Pouring hot dogs at Patty Queen you can count on great food and service.
I have been to Manchester a few times over the years and there are some nice hotels to enjoy.
But after spending two nights in Native Manchester on this trip, I will never stay anywhere else if I visit the city again – it really is that good.
The Grade II listed aparthotel is a three-minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly Railway Station, which is good news if you take the train from the airport.
The building it is based in – Ducie Street Warehouse – is simply breathtaking.
It was built in 1867 and started out as one of four warehouses on the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway (that’s MS&LR for less gulp).
Its name, also known as the London Warehouse, is derived from the destination of its goods, as cotton posts were stored here after they were shipped from America before they were sent through the canals to the capital’s mills.
Manchester was specifically chosen as the hub for the cotton trade because the known humid weather conditions kept the raw cotton moist enough to later be milled.
Since then, of course, a lot has changed and the Ducie Street Warehouse is the last of the four MS & LR warehouses that still stands proudly on the canal.
Fortunately, it has retained much of its original features, including huge vaulted ceilings, riveted wrought iron girders, and exposed brickwork.
The bedrooms and bathrooms are absolutely gorgeous with a modern industrial-chic twist, but what sets Native apart from other places in Manchester is the kitchens in each apartment – a real godsend if you’re there with a young family.
Ducie Street Warehouse also has a lively bar and lounge, restaurant, deli, food store, and mini-movie theater so you can be tempted never to leave.
Whenever I visit a city I always try to book a walking tour to get a better feel for the history of the area.
I won gold when Jonathan Schofield (jonathanschofieldtours.com) offered to show me around as his knowledge of Manchester will simply astound you.
Jonathan has been a registered Blue Badge Guide since 1996 and editor-in-chief of Manchester Confidential, the city’s largest independent magazine, and what he doesn’t know about the area is probably not worth it.
After two hours in his company, I had learned so much about the history, politics, architecture, art and music of Manchester.
He even pointed out some of our own George Best’s favorite eateries when Bestie was a football god in town. I really can’t recommend his tour enough.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I have little interest in football, but when I took the tram to Salford Quays, I couldn’t help but be impressed as I passed Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium.
For me, however, the nearby Imperial War Museum North was much more interesting.
Interestingly, when the IWM decided to build another museum in the north of England, the war history of Trafford Park turned out to be an ideal location.
It was here that vital ammunition for WWI and WWII was built, and it is here that factories produced ammunition, tanks and engines to aid the war effort.
Trafford Park was a major target of the Manchester Lightning bolt, which severely damaged factories and warehouses in the area.
The site on which the IWM North stands today is where the Hovis grain silos once stood before they were bombed and burned down in World War II.
If your into horticulture, I can also recommend RHS Garden Bridgewater, a new 150 acre garden in Salford and the largest hands-on horticultural project in Europe.
With a Weston Walled Garden (one of the largest in the UK), a visitor center and café, community teaching gardens, a vegetable garden, orchards, a forest playground and a riverside Chinese garden on Ellesmere Lake, it offers world gardening inspiration and expertise at the highest level.
There is a daily express bus service to RHS Garden Bridgewater from Piccadilly and Victoria stations in the city center, with combined bus and entry tickets available.
If you like beer you will love Craft Beer Tour Manchester. With great guides, you’ll visit both craft beer bars and breweries and sample a variety of locally made beers. To book the tour go to craftbeertourmanchester.co.uk or call 0161 3270644.
÷ Native Manchester is based in the Grade I listed Ducie Street Warehouse near Piccadilly Station. There are 162 luxury serviced apartments ranging from a studio to a palatial two-bedroom duplex penthouse apartment. Go to nativeplaces.com/property/native-manchester or call 0207 313 3886.
÷ To reserve a table at Escape to Freight Island, log into escapetofreightisland.com. It’s a wonderful place with great food and brilliant music.