Following a successful crowd-funding venture at the beginning of the year, Northern Monk opened their Manchester Refectory on 29th September. We visited Manchester’s sunny Northern Quarter recently to check it out.
If you know Manchester and you know craft beer, you’ll almost certainly know Port Street Beer House and it just so happens that the new Refectory bar has opened just around the corner on Tariff Street, in the space previously occupied by Kosmonaut.
From the outside it’s a fairly unassuming bar, nestled subtly in red brick. The window is adorned with a well thought out decal that both blends in to the local area and stands out as being recognisably Northern Monk.
Anyone who has visited the original Refectory in Leeds will feel right at home here. They’ve perfectly captured the feeling of their brewery taproom with their use of tall tables, topped with untouched looking wood, industrial style metal frames and accompanying benches. This layout gives much more space, a luxury not afforded at the Leeds venue.
The Refectory in Leeds is housed in The Old Flax Store which is both a listed building and a fully operational brewery, two details that only add to the charm and beauty of that location. Both venues are encased in exposed red brick with the industrial feel maintained; Northern Monk know where they came from and aren’t afraid to admit it.
The Manchester Refectory is therefore a different beast, albeit draped in a familiar guise. The seating extends as far as the (drunken) eye can see in front of an impressive layout of 16 keg lines, four cask lines and three draft cocktails. The staff will happily rustle you up other cocktails on the spot from their menu, too.
The main differences between the two are primarily based on the size difference. Manchester has two distinct rooms – upon entering you’ll step into the main bar which houses the aforementioned tall tables, a merchandise area which contains a fridge full of cans of freshly brewed beer, a small sofa area and a couple of small booths at one end. This is definitely the hub of activity.
The second room has a long, school dinner style, low slung table with the familiar Northern Monk benches down one side, and a few more booths juxtaposed with loads of standing room to mingle. There is also a small stage where we can picture local singer songwriters setting up and helping happy punters wile away a late evening or one of the livelier brass band instrument based events that crop up in the Leeds Refectory bringing the proverbial house down.
We set ourselves up in a booth in the main bar area and set about trying a few Northern Monk beers and a few by Garage Beer Co, a Spanish brewery quickly gaining traction in the UK largely fronted by their Soup IPA. Maybe we’re heathens (see what we did there, NM fans?) but we opened with the Soup which was tasting bang on. Bitter, piney with a little NEIPA hint in there to keep everything smooth. Garage’s Virtue Signal was next – sweet, tropical fruit juice with a candy floss finish.
The MCR Refectory had a range of Northern Monk beers on offer that we’d not tried before, which was exciting to see, including the barrel aged Toffee Strannik. There have been different iterations of this beer along the way and toffee is something we love in imperial stouts and this didn’t disappoint. Full on toffee sweetness, almost overwhelmingly so but just what the doctor ordered (sorry doc) after opening the day with lighter beers.
Switching things up, we had a Brut IPA next – What Fools These Mortals Be – part of Northern Monk’s Patrons Project, a collaboration set up to bring together artists, athletes and creative minds across the north of England. Check out this project – it shows Northern Monk’s dedication to the area they call home. Back to the beer, it’s a good example of this burgeoning style; there is a nutty dryness with a noticeable salinity which refreshed our palates after the previous sugar rush.
Our last beer of the afternoon in the Manchester Refectory was their Exp 006 – a Baltic porter weighing in a hefty 10%. The flavours were a spectacular mix of liquorice, sticky molasses and then a finish akin to a smooth red wine like a good Merlot.
We had a fantastic afternoon in Manchester and were glad to experience the new MCR Refectory for the first time on a quiet Tuesday afternoon but given the size of the bar and the fantastically spacious layout, we can’t wait to feel it in full hustle and bustle mode on a busy weekend night to soak up the atmosphere.
Manchester is one of our favourite beer cities and we wondered if it needed a Northern Monk bar – well yes, it did and it’s a richer place for having it. It feels like a little slice of Leeds plonked down in Manchester but we know MCR will impart its own culture and lifestyle on the bar and it will be all the better for it.
Get yourself along, whether you’re a Northern Monk Leeds veteran or you’ve never been before. You might just find a new favourite beer or have the chance to re-visit some old favourites in a new, but familiar setting.