Five minutes walk up Rochdale Road out of the centre of Manchester will bring you to a wonderful looking marbled Victorian street corner pub with an impressive columned entrance. Although the houses that defined the street corner have now long gone, along with the pub’s original clientele – the occupiers of those houses – the Marble Arch now casts a wider net, gaining appreciative customers from far and wide.
Walking through the impressive columns, you enter a superb, high vaulted room, lined with glazed brick, topped with a frieze of glazed tile describing the drinks on offer. This is a spectacular piece of surviving Victoriana. The roof is also of yellow glazed bricks, gently vaulted. The floor quickly grabs your attention. It has been laid level with the side street outside, which as you can see from the picture above, is on a slope, so if you have any difficulty finding the bar, don’t worry – gravity will help. The bar fills a corner opposite the door at the far end (i.e. the bottom) of the room.
The Marble Arch is, of course, home of the Marble brewery, which opened here in 1997, though the actual brewing now takes place in Marble’s new, larger brewery a couple of streets away. Marble brewery has an emphasis on the natural, brewing organic and vegan beers as part of its mainstay.
On my visit there between Christmas and the New Year, seven of Marble’s brews were available – Bitter, Chocolate Marble, Stout, Ginger Marble, Dobber, Lagonda and Utility IPA.
I started with a Chocolate Marble. This is a wonderful, warming beer, black in colour with a comforting 5.5% of alcohol. It has a dark, coffeish flavour with a smooth chocolate undertaste plus a generous dash of smoke. A perfect start to the session.
Marble Bitter is a pale yellow, 4.2% beer. The ABV is typical of best bitters and the colour is more in tune with a modern golden ale, highlighting the difficulty with pigeonholing beers these day, a state of affairs that you may regret or rejoice in. When does a golden become a bitter? A bitter a best? A mild a porter? A porter a stout? Marble Bitter not only looks like a golden ale, it tastes like one, too. There’s a distinctly hoppy smell, and the taste contains a lot of light, upfront hops. It’s very drinkable and goes down very easily.
Dobber is a stronger ale, one of those that defies pigeonholing. It’s quite strong at 5.9% and has a very pale orange colour. The taste starts with tart grapefruit and leads to a bitter middle and finish. The aftertaste is long and bitter. If you like your beers strong flavoured and bitter, then this is for you.
Stout is clearly within the traditional classification. It’s 4.7% and an impenetrable black in colour. Smooth and malty with tantalising bitter notes, this warming beer has a long finish, which introduces a growing smokiness. Superb.
Finally for this session, I tried the 6.5% Utility IPA. Mid yellow with a thick creamy head, Utility has an unusual peach or nectarine aroma, which invites further investigation. This beer is astonishingly smooth, the dominant flavours being citrus pith and hops. The flavour is very rounded and ends with a good bitter finish. Be warned – this strong ale goes down somewhat too easily, belying its high ABV!
To conclude then, the Marble Brewery and the Marble Arch Inn make a terrific combination. Wonderful ale served in wonderful surroundings. If you’re sampling the inns of Manchester, this one should be high on your list of must-visits.
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