Cloudwater Brew Co Tour & Tasting
It’s 10:44am. We enter the brewery to a few chirpy, if slightly tired looking faces. Immediately we are presented with the Manchester brewery’s collaboration with San Diego craft kingpins, Modern Times. At 7.2% it’s a liquid breakfast for us, and a pretty fair indicator of what’s to come.
The brew itself is all orange peel and soft, aptly biscuity malt. It’s actually a pretty perfect start to the day. The initial sips are a little bit trepidatious proceeding a late night, but we soon ease ourselves in, life is hard sometimes.
We then begin the tour of the smaller-than-you-could imagine brewery. Like the beer, it’s candid, slightly lackadaisical and ever-so charming. Having bought their beers for over two years now, it also feels like somewhat of a reunion.
Thankfully every nitty gritty detail is revealed to us, from who they’d (probably) never collaborate with, why seasonality is so important, their average dry hopping per litre, and just what the heck a space-rocket shaped (not even the most exciting part) hop gun does.
What’s clear is they still rightly think themselves the underdogs. They’re still ‘inefficient’ in relative terms when it comes to the actual process and especially when it comes to the water from said clouds. While cornered by Premier Inn’s and other grey, bleak-looking commuter hotspots an unfortunate coincidence means they simply can’t get as much water as they’d like to use.
You see, when it hits around 7am and every business person hits a hot shower, Cloudwater are trying to make beer. Beer that is metaphorically washed down the train due to water usage allocated elsewhere. It’s something that is being corrected, in one way or another, but its also an indicator of the kind of thing they're still up against.
There’s stories too, mainly in reverence to the Cloudwater backstory and their madcap leader. There's also a brilliant (and slightly overdue) explanation of the various equipment that surrounds us - predominantly bought on a whim, in the name of experimentation and opportunity. Personal taste, and the justification of someone allowed to enjoy any number of fizzy beers is also staunchly made. And, that's not to forget a pretty special tale of a famed DIPA saved by a Siren.
What resonates more than anything is a sense of openness and community. After all, no one has made the perfect beer yet. Our tour guide cites Barrel store near-neighbours Track as having the best pale ale in the market. Above a container empty bottles lay propped up against one another. As we leave we spot half stuck post-it notes dotting a whiteboard listing unannounced, rather exciting sounding beers. And, these signifiers are by no means outliers.
Though, Ratebeer rank Cloudwater amongst the top ten in the world, you wouldn’t know it. That’s not because anything feels slapdash or disorganised. No, beer is spontaneous, and from Cloudwater’s famed, aesthetically dreamy packaging, to their embracement of any of the latest hop and yeast strains under the sun - they sure know it.
Although, it's perfect for anyone, irrespective of craft beer knowledge or passion, the tour isn't just an introduction. It's a snapshot of the most exciting part. Watching a brewery still trying to work it all out, right in front of your eyes.
You can book tickets to the tour right here. Included are some rather generous sample(s) and a beer token for any of the wildest choices you desire at the Barrel Store.
You can also visit the Barrel Store at Arch 13, Sheffield Street, M1 2ND (Behind Piccadilly Station).
If you really want to go crazy, you can visit Pollen Bakery next door - to see what all the fuss is about. We can thoroughly recommend a citrusy, Pastel de Nata.