Long before craft beer was cool The Ship and Mitre was flying the flag for a tipple with taste. It’s a place that’s charted its own course for decades and has just cruised into the Guardian list of 50 Best Pubs in the country. Here’s what makes it so special.
There was a time when anything other than commercial lager conjured images of bellied and bearded men creating shed brews even the underage would reject. When beer festivals meant queuing outside the cathedral at 6am on a freezing Saturday morning to secure a ticket to CAMRA’s annual keg frenzy in the crypt. Through this dark and heavily carbonated time sailed one pub determined to buck the trend. Serving cask ales, substantial stouts and beers with a bite to a faithful crowd.
And now, despite us being awash with great beer, The Ship and Mitre has fittingly been honoured on a national stage. You know a place is serious about beer when you step inside and their credentials are plastered over the walls through metal brewery signs and paraphernalia, and there’s a beer menu thick enough to slightly bamboozle. If you’re overwhelmed the bar staff will help you navigate the casks, kegs and bottles and if you venture into new waters you can try many in a third of a pint ‘nip’. Look out for anything from Flagship Beer, the Ship’s own brewery, who supply a steady stream of stouts and pales and some interesting monthly specials.
Despite its dedication to a quality pint this isn’t a place that takes itself too seriously. In the week you’ll find a mix of beer buffs discussing the difference between real ale and craft beer, oldies enjoying half a stout and students filling up with scouse on the house. Come payday Friday it turns a bit ‘final hours of the Titanic’, as museum and university staff pile in to jostle for a prime spec and there’s an air of carefree abandon about the place.
It could be the strength of the Leffe, the disorientating maritime interior, or just the friendly vibe, but the Ship is the kind of place where the hours disappear, and a post-work half readily turns into an all-nighter. And this is a ship with hidden depths. Poke your head upstairs and you’ll discover an Art Deco gem of a function room complete with wood panelling, ox-blood seating and, after a couple of delirium tremens, there’s something of the Twin Peaks about it.
If that wasn’t enough you can take the beer party home with a carry out from Ship in a Bottle, the Ships city centre bottle shop and every year the good ship brings all the beers to Hulme Hall for a bi-annual festival. So let’s salute the Ship and all who sail in her. For keeping it real for decades and continuing to ride the wave of the craft beer resurgence.