If you frequent any of the decent beer selling venues in and around Manchester, chances are that you’ve come across First Chop beers. And the man behind those beers is local man-about-town Rik Garner. He started out working his magic as a chef in the Jam Street Cafe in Chorlton before moving onwards and upwards. The well-regarded First Chop bar in Ramsbottom followed and it quickly earned a following for its regular supply of excellent cask beer and for being the first local stockist of bottled Kernel beers. From there it was a natural progression-whisper it, but the lad does like a drink-to brewing his own. This was initially at Bury’s mighty Outstanding brewery before he could secure premises of his own.
Which brings us bang up to date with his brand new Salford venture on Trinity Way. This is a craft brewery a la Kernel, a la London. Yes, it’s under a railway arch and aims to be more than just a brewery bar. So when Rik asked if I was coming along on its first open day, it seemed rude to refuse. The plan was quite simple: good beer and good food. So we had a choice of several beers on cask and keg and outside the excellent foody offerings of The Moocher (think wild rabbit etc) and Honest Crust (yummy wood-fired pizza) to keep the dark, wet day at bay.
Rik is also seriously into his music so there were live bands on stage in the back room. In fact, it’s already establishing itself on the local music scene with album launches and a DJ at weekends. But back to the beer. The idea of these open days is for First Chop to be paired with another brewery in a mini battle of the beers. On this occasion it was Blackjack. Sadly Rob from Blackjack couldn’t make it but we were able to sample some of his tasty offerings. Rik had chosen his American inspired TEA to go head-to-head with Blackjack Centennial. Obviously to do this contest justice, I forced several of both down my neck. I also enjoyed the (5 hops, what’s not to like?) HOP and the South Island Pale, SIP.An enjoyable afternoon out and hopefully the first of many. Thanks to Rik and the gang. If you get the chance, give it a visit. Salford is officially the new London.