When CAMRA decided that it was time that the National Winter Ales Festival's nine-year tenure in Manchester came to an end, there was some degree of outcry both from those volunteers who had pulled the festival together for many years and from the drinkers who had enjoyed the annual January festival.
Nine months on from the final event in Manchester, that decision by CAMRA may well have been the best thing that every happened for festival goers in the region - without it, the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival would never have been conceived. The new festival takes the same slot in the January calendar (22 to 25 January) and is shaping up to be Manchester's biggest and best ever beer festival. The biggest coup for the organisers was securing the amazing setting of Manchester Velodrome for the event - not the adjacent café used for the small warm up event in August - the actual Velodrome itself. As a building, it's simply stunning to stand inside that track and marvel at the scale of the place - and that's without any beer in it.
Set on the floor inside that steeply banked track will be the largest range of beers and ciders ever offered in Manchester. There will be well over 300 cask conditioned craft beers alongside a bar full of real ale in a bottle (drink in or take away) - every beer that is ready for sale will be available from the first session until it is sold. The cider and perry bar is expected to offer at least 75 different ciders and perries - all made from fresh apple or pear juice.
If the best of British beers isn't enough, then the 'Bière sans Frontières' bar will be importing the very best beers brewed for Germany's Oktoberfest alongside Belgian, Dutch, Czech and American beers - far too many to mention. Some of the most cutting edge breweries in the country including Marble Beers, Hawkshead, Liverpool Organic and Ilkley Brewery will be hosting their own bars offering a larger range of their beers than the three main cask bars can accommodate plus offering the chance to meet their brewers.
In total there will be no fewer than 16 bars to visit. Surrounding these are some 1700 seats from where visitors will be able to look over the festival floor and watch cyclists riding the track. The Great Britain Cycling Team have training sessions on the track twice a day which will continue throughout the festival alongside other clubs and taster sessions.
The festival kicks off at 4.30pm on Wednesday 22 January and runs through until Saturday evening. The Velodrome is easily accessible via Manchester's Metrolink tram network - its own Velopark station is served by trams every 12 minutes - with the 216 and other bus routes from Manchester even more frequent. CAMRA Members will be entitled to free entry all day Wednesday and Thursday with discounts on entry at all other times.