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Since beginning my craft beer journey a few years ago my tastes have gotten increasingly more elaborate (and expensive). While at first I was happy with the best that local breweries had to offer, I now can’t resist seeking the biggest and best beers from the UK and beyond.
There has been one constant throughout that time though, Marble Brewery. As arguably Manchester’s finest craft brewers they’ve quietly been producing top quality beer for almost 20 years and I count several of them amongst my all time favourites.
Marble have gone from strength to strength since starting brewing in the back room of one of their three pubs – The Marble Arch – in 1997. Four years later they expanded and moved to bigger premises, under the railway arches just down the road.
When I heard that the brewery is open for occasional tours I jumped at the chance to see the place some of my favourite beers are produced.
It’s not much to look at from the outside, literally just a small railway arch, without a trace of Marble branding. After a quick walk around the back we almost left as there was no sign of anybody and no indication that we were even in the right place.
We gave one last knock on the door before preparing to leave. But this time, success. The door slid open and we were welcomed inside by Marble brewer Stuart.
I was surprised by how small and basic the place was inside too. I’d been to nearby Runaway Brewery recently for Grub Winter Beer Festival which seemed much bigger and more modern despite Runaway being not much over a year old.
The tour started with an introduction to the various malts that Marble use in the brewing process. From pale malts used in bitters and lighter IPAs to the dark roasted malt used in their ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Imperial Stout’.
Before being shown around the equipment. Firstly the mash tuns where the malt is mixed with water and heated to convert the starch in the malt to sugar.
And the fermentation tanks where hops and yeast are added and left to ferment.
For me the highlight was tasting a couple of the beers – Lagonda IPA and Earl Grey IPA – straight from the tank. There’s not much alcohol at this stage so it’s extremely sweet but the base flavour profile is there and you can literally taste the freshness.
The beer is then finally moved to the cooling tank where we got to taste some finished ‘Antipodean’, Marble’s New Zealand pale.
Once complete, beers are transferred to either bottle, cask or keg. Staggeringly, by hand!
The tour was shorter than I expected, I’d seen 30 – 40 minutes mentioned but I struggle to see how it could last so long unless people asked a lot of questions.
It was fascinating though, I can’t quite believe the size of the place and the fact that they’re still hand bottling, given the range of beers and sheer volume they somehow manage to produce. It’s seriously impressive stuff.
Date of brewery tour: 14.03.2015Follow @BeerGeekBlog Follow @FoodGeekUK