Port Street Beer House is the living room of beer. UPVC windows, standing lamps, family photos. It’s where beer can kick off its shoes and feel at home. Cask, keg and bottle sit comfortably side by side. From the big boys of British craft to obscure upstarts and weird and wonderful names from Europe and beyond. Maybe it’s more like an International Convention Hall for beer, but still cosy.

Friends and family of mine take heed. If I haven’t taken you in Port Street, I don’t actually like you. I’m a Sheffield lad born and bred, champion of the Steel City pub scene. Yet I feel no shame in proclaiming Manchester’s Port Street Beer House my favourite dram shop in all the land. My Dad always said that you could tell a good Indian or Chinese restaurant by the amount of Indian or Chinese folk eating in there. I can’t count the amount of brewers I’ve seen sitting at the bar in PSBH.

The day I received my discount card (free and available on the joint’s website) and got my hands on a refillable growler, I felt I’d both become a member of a very exclusive beer club and also joined a wonderfully friendly and ever-growing community of beer lovers. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re alone or with friends, a first-timer hoping to ween yourself off Fosters or the head brewer at Cloudwater – Port Street punters welcome everyone and are always happy to talk about their favourite subject. I’d say I always leave with a warm glow inside, but I suspect my fondness for strong barley wines might have a part to play in that.

The barfolk are a lovely bunch too. Never stingy; always friendly and knowledgeable. If you’re palpitating at the bar because you’re not sure how to pronounce that German (or is it Belgian?) wheat beer, but whose clip design looks like Game of Thrones heraldry, don’t fret. Not only will they help you, they’ll provide poetic descriptions and offer tasters until you find something you love. Imagine asking for three different samples in the Red Lion (or White Horse, Royal Oak, Old Crown, Turkey’s Gobbler, and so on). In my eyes, all Port Street staff are honorary beer sommeliers.

Nobody throws a party like these guys either. From extravagant tap takeovers to beer festival ticket launches and beery cults and conventions, they do it all. The last time I queued to get into a bar I was 19 and it cost me four quid, the Red Stripe was served lukewarm in plastic pint pots and cost more than the admission. Yet on the day of Port Street’s Indy Man Beer Con launch, my girl and I stood nervously awaiting permission to enter. It was worth it. We left feeling we’d already been to a beer festival. Free samples of a herbed saison and homemade Indian street food for the win.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about PS is that, thanks to their constant beer rotation, you never know what to expect. Until you walk in and see the day’s offerings you really can’t say what you’ll be drinking. I owe a lot to the blackboards of the school classroom, but I don’t recall them ever evoking anywhere near the same level of excitement as the slate at Port Street.

Oh, and if you see me at the bar, mine’s a Jaipur please.


Image by Joe Magee.

Jordan Lee Smith