Manchester is a necessary stop on a British beer tour and the Marble Arch Inn should be where you focus your attention: it’s one of the country’s best pubs, serving some of the country’s best beers—most of them brewed just a few hundred yards away.
The pub itself is remarkable, even if it looks like an unassuming’ street corner bar from the outside. It was built in 1888 and thought to have been a gin bar in Victorian times. Head to the bar, order a beer— preferably something from Marble Brewery (I recommend starting with their Pint)—and then take some time to have a good look around.
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Notice that the floor is ornately tiled. You’ll also notice that it isn’t flat —it slopes down toward the bar. Now see where there’s a large, brown semi-circle on the floor tiles—that’s where the original bar was before it was removed and placed where it is today. Which door did you come in? Because there are two entrances: one at the front and one at the side. No one is quite sure why this is, but it’s thought that possibly the top of the bar was for better-off drinkers, whereas the bottom one, down the slope, was for everyone else, with a curtain or glass partition through the middle of the bar—certainly there’s a hole in the wall by the central door which supports this idea. Now look up at the ceiling. It’s an ocher color today, but no one is sure what color the tiles were originally before they were stained through decades of second-hand smoke. One more thing: in the 1950s, and through until the 1970s, all of this was covered up, including the floor. It was only when new owners took over and started investigating that they discovered the grandeur underneath.
Once you’ve taken in the wonderful surroundings, focus on the beer. Marble Brewery started in the back of this pub in December 1997. Owner Jan, and then-husband Vance, took over the pub and had space out back—supposedly the options were a brewery or a karaoke room. Luckily for us, Jan hates karaoke. They brewed there until 2011 when they moved a short walk away, behind the pub (by the way, their old kit is used by the Blackjack Brewery who also brew just behind the pub). Marble make many very good beers, including Pint, a 3.9% pale and hoppy session beer that’s wonderfully fruity, zesty, and peachy, and has a bold, quenching bitterness—for me, Pint in the Marble Arch is an essential world beer and pub experience. Their Manchester Bitter is fuller in malt; it’s very bitter and less aromatic compared with Pint, being somehow old school yet still modern. Lagonda is their IP A, a boldly hopped brew that still keeps the great balance of British malts. Check out the keg lines as well, because you’ll find a large variety of rarer brews: Imperial Stouts, barrel-aged beers, and excellent lagers.
If all of this wasn’t enough, the kitchen is very good, if you’re hungry, and includes classic pub food, plus 22 cheeses if you want to create your own cheeseboard (which you definitely do).
The Marble Arch Inn is a proper pub serving exceptional beers in perfect condition. The interior is fascinating and you can happily sit with a beer, just enjoying the surroundings. Unmissable.
You won’t find Marble’s excellent Pint served anywhere better than here.
WHAT: Marble Arch Inn
WHERE: 7 3 Rochdale Road, Manchester M4 4HY