There’s never been a better time to drink British beer.

Adrian Tierney-Jones talks to the key players in the new wave of the new wave.

Now is the time of our content when it comes to the British beer scene. Whether it’s a deep and soul-devouring hop narcissistic IPA, a porter or stout whose darkness the truly devout can get lost in, or a ringing, chiming, zinging, thrilling sour, we are living through perhaps the most exciting time for drinking beer since the end of the 19th century (and don’t let any self-appointed beer historian tell you otherwise).

 

In the past decade there’s been a British beer revolution, much? of it inspired by what had been going on in America as beers from the likes of Brooklyn, Goose Island

 

There’s never been a better time to drink British beer.

Adrian Tierney-Jones talks to the key players in the new wave of the new wave.

Now is the time of our content when it comes to the British beer scene. Whether it’s a deep and soul-devouring hop narcissistic IPA, a porter or stout whose darkness the truly devout can get lost in, or a ringing, chiming, zinging, thrilling sour, we are living through perhaps the most exciting time for drinking beer since the end of the 19th century (and don’t let any self-appointed beer historian tell you otherwise).

 

In the past decade there’s been a British beer revolution, much? of it inspired by what had been going on in America as beers from the likes of Brooklyn, Goose Island, Anchor and Stone stormed these shores.

 

However, this was not the sole influence: breweries such as Rooster's, Marble and Meantime had also done some of the earlier groundwork; this was a gang that had torn up the ‘you-must-brew-bitter-and-golden-ale’ rulebook.

 

The growth of home brewing as something more than a peculiar hobby also played its part as London-based Mondo Brewing’s Tom Palmer explains: “Home brewers were there from the beginning. They were at home doing what most professional breweries couldn’t do, they were experimenting methodically and wildly without want of profit.”

 

Therefore, I’m positing that it could be argued we are currently in the post-revolutionary period of the British beer revolution.

 

We’ve had all the manifestoes (thank you BrewDog), the noise, the fury and the chatter about year zero and the end of cask, most of it carried out on social media. We have had the gunslingers, the bright young things, the hopocalypse maximalists, the Jacobins and the jesters of British beer, while on the sober side of the boom we have seen the buy-outs and the consolidations.

 

While all of this is not exactly a Fukuyama-like end of history (though wine vs beer dinners have vanished into the same sinkhole inhabited by silent creatures that go under the name of Betamax and Sinclair c5), things seem to have settled (though not relapsed into a torpor) after a fashion. The result is a fantastic array of British beer while brewers continue to be restless in their search for flavour, fun and a mash tun full of gorgeous grain.

 

Even if you are not convinced that the revolution is over (Mondo’s Palmer, for instance, tells me “post-revolution, in my mind, would mean that we’d reached a state of agreement as to what the new norm is and how it is achieved. I’m not quite sure I agree with that”), British beer has certainly entered a new phase.

 

For a start those of us who love British beer are spoilt for choice. If we want a all guns blazing IPA? Then, step forward Cannonball IPA?

. Want a beer taken to the outer limits of flavour then Somerset's Wild Beer Co. is the brewery to watch: anyone fancy their Passion fruit, Orange and Guave Pale Ale andPogo?

 

Then there’s the magnificent Magic Rock, Huddersfield’s answer to Stone, whose head brewer Stuart Ross recalls that “the idea behind our beers was to bring the wonderful fresh flavours of the US West Coast IPAs and pale ales to the UK.

 

We had tasted fresh beer brought in by friends and then tasted the beers that had been imported which had suffered the test of time. We brew a range of hop forward, bold and exciting beers and one of the most important things for us is making sure the beers stay drinkable; we like people to try our beer and always want to come back for more.”

 

Just as importantly drinkers are becoming more aware of quality, especially when it comes to bottles. It’s no longer enough for a brewery to put their beer in a brown bottle straight from the cask or keg and hope for the best when it goes out into the trade (I recall brewers doing a lot of this some 10-12 years back and then deeming it the very best of bottle-conditioning).

 

But before we get too carried away let’s talk about those who set the stones in place and laid the foundations for how British beer is building itself up now. First of all, let us praise Thornbridge, founded in 2005, rightly seen as the godfathers of the British beer revolution, whose Jaipur long ago became an IPA gold standard.

 

They continue to inspire and innovate and indulge British beer fans (and those from further afield) with a range of beers including a West Coast IPA upon whose nose I swear I could smell the hop fields of Yakima on a hot day, a sprightly candidate for Kölsch of the year with Tzara and its magnificent homage to the Flemish red/brown style, Sour Brown.

 

The latter is a grand old Flemish master that is tart, vinous, earthy, sour and sweet, fruity as in cherry, currant and plum- sweetness, all wrapped up in a cedar wood dryness. Not content to rest, head brewer Rob Lovatt used this gorgeous beer as the base for two of Thornbridge’s latest releases, Love Among The Ruins and Days of Creation.

 

Both were aged in Burgundy barrels, the former with cherries, the latter with raspberries. Both? are remarkable beers, which at the beginning of May won medals at the World Beer Cup in Philadelphia. “The Brits are coming,” a beery Colin Welland might have hollered, though breweries from these isles have been winning medals there for some years, including BrewDog and Lovibond’s.

 

Then there is Tiny Rebel, which has travelled a long way since it burst onto the Welsh beer scene in 2012. Twelve months later gold, silver and bronze were theirs at CAMRA’s Champion Beer ?of Wales competition. Further medals flew their way, though the epic moment came when Cwtch won Champion Beer of Britain in 2015.

 

Other beers from the Newport based outfit to dip into and stay with include the creamy smoked-oat stout Dirty Stopout and the potent ‘amplified IPA’ Hadouken, where aromatics of Cointreau, grain, resin and pine pulsate from the glass. “Our inspiration for beers are quite simple, we brew styles that we like to drink ourselves,” says brewer and Tiny Rebel co-founder Gareth ‘Gazz’ Williams.

 

This attitude is common within the new British beer brewing community, a sense of exploration that leads brewers to ask the question : what would this beer taste like this if this or that were added to the mix.

 

However, it’s not just about hop bombs or souring and salting a beer so that it tastes like grapefruit juice with a bit of salt on the rim. The new wave of British beer brewers are supremely confident in themselves and they are not only acting like chefs in search of beervana, but also hunting out and brewing the more subtly flavoured styles such as Kolsch, Berliner Weisse, saison and Düsseldorf’s Altbier, which is what London’s Mondo Brewing did with their London Alt, launched in 2015.

 

This is a beer that is copper-coloured in the glass with a flurry of light caramel notes on the nose, moving slightly towards toffee. It’s rich and smooth and creamy and full- bodied, with a bitter finish that lingers like a lost lover looking over the Rhine as it flows through Düsseldorf. Drinking it I felt I could have been in the Altstadt moving from one Alt pub to another.

 

“Both Todd (brewery co- founder) and I were already fans of Zum Uerige [a brewery specialising in altbier] when we met,” says Tom Palmer. “It was easier for me to get that beer in Tokyo than it is here in London. On one trip home Todd picked up a couple of modern US examples of the style, notably Long Trail Brewing Company’s Long Trail Ale.

 

We thought it was a great style, one we liked drinking, and would complement a core range well. We tweaked our homebrew recipes with some late addition Liberty hops. But the malt, water profile, bittering hops, and yeast are all true to style. It is easier to cover flaws with more prominent, dominating ingredients. But as with everything we produce, we prefer balance, subtlety, and drinkability.”

 

Of course, there are always clouds on the horizon when it comes to British beer: brewery buyouts cause dismay among the fervent; experimentation can often topple over into gimmickry; and not every example bottle-conditioned beer meets the high standards that those of us that love beer expect.

 

Yet, I’m an optimist and when I see that Bad Seed has had a go at an espresso stout or that Wiper & True Red Orange is a supremely balanced ying and yan of malt and hops with an accompanying Om of orange zest, then I know that the British beer scene, post-revolution, is heading in the right direction.

 

Or as Shakespeare probably didn’t write: Now is certainly the time of our content, made glorious summer by the sum of beers that lie ahead of us.

 

• Adrian Tierney-Jones is a journalist who writes about beer, pubs, food and travel and how they all intersect. / maltworms. blogspot.co.uk


 

The Best British Beer Taprooms

 

The taproom or brewery bar may be the freshest place to get beer, but they also have turned into pilgrimage destinations for British beer lovers. It’s in the taprooms where you’ll also find those hard-to-find beers or small batch brews that never made quite made it into production. It’s also here you may find your self at the bar with the head brewer. And following the inspiration from the United States, they are no longer just a couple of taps on a freezing industrial estate among stainless steel. OK, most are on industrial estates, but some are pretty special. Here are the best.

MAGIC ROCK

This is perhaps the loveliest taproom in the country and we’ve heard of people travelling from afar to visit it. Sat by the barrels of the brewery, you can sit and enjoy that Un-Human Cannonball in perfect condition in the perfect glass while chatting to other enthusiasts. A beery heaven.

NORTHERN MONK Northern Monk’s Refectory (see what they did) is a great little spot in Leeds to try some of the award-winning British beer from these guys as well as enjoying some good food. There’s around 20 beers on tap and plenty more in the fridge.

CLOUDWATER

Like Magic Rock, Manchester’s Cloudwater has already gained a cult status among British beer aficionados and a trip to Cloudwater is on everyone’s list... which is probably why you have to book yourself in. But once you do, you’ll get a brewery tour and the chance to indulge in some of the best beer made in Britain right now.

BEAVERTOWN BREWERY

Although this is out in Tottenham Hale, the much-loved Beavertown craft brewery taproom is always happening on a Saturday afternoon. Beer lovers descend on the brewery to try the latest limited release and perhaps enjoy some live music on special occasions.

MONDO BREWING

Mondo’s taproom in the glamorous destination of Battersea (maybe not) is a beery oasis among the industrial units of the area, but a very worthwhile destination in itself, not least of all because of the number taps they have on offer. Given Mondo’s love of worldwide styles you can travel the world from the confines of this lovely space.

CAMDEN TOWN BREWERY

Camden Town brewery know how to have a good time. Their brewery bar has become a focal point for all manner of events and launches and there’s always some interesting beer on tap and in the fridge, whether it’s an unfiltered Hells or a barrel-aged IHL. In the summer, when the party spills onto the terrace, it’s one of the best places to drink in London.