Oh Marble Beers how I love thee so, brewers of the amber nectar of my Manchester youth; Ginger Marble. From my first 18(or so) year old sip I was forever smitten with this beer, and their other brews aren’t anything to be sniffed at either. If I could buy Marble Beers here in London I would be a very happy girl, a very happy and potentially very drunk girl, but very happy none-the-less, and definitely not just because I was so drunk.
Hypothetical alcoholism aside, I was first introduced to the wonders of Marble as a late teenager by my Chorlton dwelling then girlfriend, who as luck would have it lived walking distance from the Marble Beerhouse , one of only three Marble bars to be found. Many an afternoon and evening were happily wiled away there, discussing the world over pints of my beautiful Ginger, but then came University, and I discovered with sadness just how rare this ale was.
Unwavering in my devotion, I scoured the internet for online distributors, browsed hopefully through Real Ale festival leaflets, and wished for signs of the brewery’s expansion South. Whenever I did return North I would attempt a visit, despite it now being completely out of my way, and discovered with glee on a recent trip that they’d begun to sell bottles of their beer over the bar to enjoy at home; ever since I’ve tried to carry at least half a dozen back with me.
Then, a chance convergence on Twitter (oh Gods how I love Twitter) lead me to the news that Marble were opening a new, significantly more convenient, branch in Manchester city centre’s Northern Quarter. Having published the exciting news on Twitter the above now ex-girlfriend suggested we try it out when I was next up, and thus a plan was formed. Last weekend that plan was put into action.
Easy to find the newest and smallest incarnation of Marble Beers doesn’t seem to have a proper name, christened only by its address, the eponymous 57 Thomas Street. Unassuming from outside, the clear glass frontage displays the familiar Marble Beers logo, with a couple of cafe type tables out on the pavement perfect for the one week a year it doesn’t rain in Manchester. Simply decorated, seating inside comprises one long communal table running parallel to the bar and some sofa-ish squishy shapes across the front window which we occupied for the hours we were there.
Since our primary aim had been the beers we decided to get the drinks in first, an easy choice of Ginger for me and a seasonal draft Summer Marble for my friend. The Ginger was everything I’d remembered it to be, smooth and clear with a perfectly balanced spice hit from the ginger; more prominent than in other ginger beers I’ve tried but without being overpowering, the once intensely fiery ginger now mellowed following a recipe change a few years back. The Summer I’d completely forgotten about is only available during the warmer months and had only just been brought out again for this year; lighter and paler than the Ginger this really is a summer drink, with wonderful fruity flavours and citrus notes, another beer I could easily while away an evening drinking.
First pints swiftly dispensed with we began the somewhat overwhelming task of choosing what to eat. With both of us being uselessly indecisive and relatively ignorant I decided the best idea may be to ask the staff for their recommendations. Luckily the manager seemed more than happy to help, asking our preferences before talking through his favourites, helping us to pick out four cheeses before moving on to pick out four meats too. His passion for the quality of the produce shone through and I was really impressed, in the end opting for the Cropwell Bishop Organic Stilton, Cotswold Veined Brie, Northumberland Smoked, and Dessert de Trappistas, together with the speck, spianata, Milano salami and bresola.
To tide us over while our plates were prepared we got a pot of olives, the black of which were particularly good, slightly dried concentrating the salty olive flavour, and couple more drinks, another of Summer and one of an apparently new Marble draft, Beer 57, I’m assuming brewed specially for their eponymous new location. Stronger than the others, weighing in at an apt 5.7% abv in comparison to their respective 4.5%, this beer taste like proper grown up beer, full of hoppy flavour without any adulteration and with a slightly bitter aftertaste that didn’t linger too long on the palate. Another very drinkable draft from the Marble, though my least favourite of the three.
The cheeses came with slices of lovely soft white bread and Bath Oliver biscuits, the meats with more of the bread and some pickle; the recommended apple and mint and as they were almost out of that some sweet pickle as well, two types of pickle for one suiting me just fine. There was also a decent sized pat of butter which I think came with the cheeses, though I honestly couldn’t tell you for sure.
Both the cheeses and the meats were stunning but for the sake of space I won’t describe them all here. From the meats my favourite by far was the spianata, an Italian cured meat slightly similar to chorizo that I had never tasted before; this had a good piccante kick to it, and I was very happy when the third piece fell to me.
Of the cheeses there were three which really stood out; firstly the Cotswold Veined Brie, also new to me, was everything I want brie to be and more, soft and gooey at room temperature, with the more in this case coming from the salty bite of the veins. Next the Northumberland Smoked which had a delicate smoke flavour, a welcome relief from the weird Frazzles like smoked cheese I had previously eaten, apparently a result of smoke flavour being painted on rather than the cheese being properly oak smoked as this had. Finally the Stilton, easily my favourite of the four, was the best Stilton I have ever tasted; highly creamy, slightly salty, with well distributed blue fault lines, if only all Stilton could taste like this I would eat it a lot more often.
Towards the end of the afternoon things get regrettably fuzzy, as too much of a good thing lead me to drunkenly cobble the manager again, expounding on just how much I loved Marble Beers and telling him, embarrassingly, how I was going to write a blog about it informing the whole of London. According to my friends though I didn’t come across as quite the slurring fool I hazily remember and the manager happily talking to me about how important the soft Northern water was to the brewing process, free from the impurities and chemicals pumped into the water we drink further South. I also learned that Marble apparently does now supply some pubs in the nether regions of the country, and I made a note to find the Southampton Arms in NW5 on my return, which after a quick Google I’m assuming to be this pub.
All in all I had a wonderful time at the new 57 Thomas Street, and despite acting like a bit of an idiot came away with 6 bottles of Ginger 6% and the potential promise of more closer to home. If you’re ever in Manchester and looking for a lunchtime bite or a couple of really good pints I highly recommend you stop in here.
Marble Beers website can be found at www.marblebeers.co.uk though the site only gives phone numbers for their locations, except the new one above.