There was some discussion at TNQR towers when first concocting this plan as to where the NQ’s eastern boundary lay and one of the main reasons we chose the far side of Swan Street rather than the near was because of a single NQ originator, Bar Fringe.
Another modern NQ institution, Fringe is pretty well renowned for one thing; danger. No you won’t take your life in your hands when you enter, but you will fear for your wallet and your liver when you see the array of beer in stock. We’ll come onto the taps in a minute, but what you can expect from Fringe first and foremost is the finest selection of Belgian beers, all served in the appropriate glassware (or apparatus – Kwak, we’re looking at you) anywhere in the NQ, possibly in Manchester.
Fruit beers are often on tap too which is a great, if rare thing to see, whilst the odd chewy cider sits alongside the plethora of other draught beer. Yes, you can get a Stella or a Staropramen if you like, but you can also choose one of six or so ales or even a Duvel. On tap. Yes, it’s dangerous alright.
Whereas The City and The Burton Arms are rough around the edges in a not-necessarily-a-good-thing way, Fringe prides itself on retaining the décor for which it is renowned, and somehow it simply works. Whether it’s the motorbike hanging from the ceiling or the crazy cardboard cut-outs, Fringe has always been a mish-mash of different scenes and this gives the bar a curious but friendly vibe. Sometimes known as a biker pub, it’s in no way limited to that; the ales on show encourage the beard fraternity whilst students are enticed by decently priced booze across the board. The bar also used to do free chilli on a Sunday and although we’re not sure this is still a deal, it merely gives us an excuse to go back and find out.
Another bonus for the city centre is the beer garden. Essentially just a back yard next to a car park, we’ve still spent many a sunny summer’s afternoon on the picnic tables or kegs out back, mixing with an eclectic bunch of folk and even a snake on one occasion. The eccentricity stretches back inside too with one of the finest jukeboxes in town. On last check Gary Glitter was still in there, but if you excuse that you’ll find something for everyone from Manchester scene regulars through to ‘Nelly the Elephant’. Bizarre, quirky and fun, it’s everything Bar Fringe stands for in one musical nutshell.
The place can get crowded on busy days and nights and the table placement tends to mean wherever you stand or sit you will be in the way, but hey, we’re all for making new friends whichever way we go about it. The toilets too could do with a bit of renovation and the uneven floor has caused us the odd spill on occasion.
Even so, Bar Fringe is a great little place to hang out with friends, stop off as part of a major session or just bob in for a beer you probably won’t find anywhere else nearby. This is a classic example of how to get all things NQ right in one unassuming package.
Food: Bar snacks
Drinks: Lager, ale, cider, Belgian beer and spirits
Related City Centre establishments: None
Bongo rating: 7/10