North West Focus: View from the top

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Manchester has no interest in being England's second city, it has no interest in being provincial. The city looks to models such as Barcelona. Ask...

Manchester has no interest in being England's second city, it has no interest in being provincial. The city looks to models such as Barcelona. Ask anyone, the L word - London - isn't an issue.

This Mancunian arrogance comes as standard. Whether it's Cristiano Ronaldo's skill, Liam Gallagher's swagger or a pint of John Willie's finest, Manchester has a particular spirit of independence. That rings true whether you were born in the city or have adopted it, like Ronaldo, as your home. This is why many of the UK's brightest graduates come to Manchester, not just for the universities but to start their careers.

Manchester's current regeneration is not, as is so frequently stated, a result of the 1996 IRA bomb. It's the result of a great 19th-century city rediscovering its strength and living up to its expansionist liberal traditions. Manchester is back, big-style.

It's only natural that the city is the heartbeat of the North West and that the regional brewers are the heartbeat of the North West's brewing and licensed trade.

Competition is a good thing. It's no coincidence that there are more regional brewers in the North West than any other area of the UK: in alphabetical order Cains, Holts, Hydes, JW Lees, Moorhouse's, Robinsons and Thwaites. Not to mention some of the more innovative smaller brewers - Beartown, Coach House, Coniston, Marble, Paradise, Phoenix, Three Rivers and Weetwood among many others.

Manchester is radical as well as independent. In the same spirit with which the Free Trade movement was born in the mid-1800s, so was the Campaign for Real Ale founded in the city in 1971. With so much range, this was only natural.

To this day it is strong competition that has made the North West a great place for consumers - great quality at reasonable prices.

In the licensed trade, if you are good enough you'll be busy, whether you're selling cask ales, continental lagers or pub food.

Of course, many brewers have fallen by the wayside: Boddingtons, Greenalls, Threlfalls, Wilsons and more.

This makes the surviving regional brewers here look to the long term and invest in their pubs. Being prudent is right for the times, given what is happening at Mitchells & Butlers and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, there is a new breed of swaggering North West entrepreneur-run bars and restaurants spreading over the UK - Revolution, Living Room, Black House Grill, Restaurant Bar & Grill, Piccolinos and Est Est Est. And you can get a pint of locally brewed ale in pubs all over the UK, too.

People of Britain, the Mancs are coming.

William Lees-Jones is managing director of Manchester brewer JW Lees

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