Now in it's fifth year, Craft Beer Rising could reasonably lay claim to being one of the first real 'craft' beer festivals. Hosted in the heart of Brick Lane at the iconic Old Truman Brewery, the festival boasts of having over 700 beers from around 170 breweries on offer across three days. I was lucky enough to attend the Thursday trade session of the festival, sampling some of the first beers poured over the weekend. Whilst it would be ill advised and neigh on impossible to attempt to drink even close to all of the beer available at the festival, a few breweries and beers in particular caught my eye.
1) Twisted Barrel Ale/Five Clouds Brew Co - Five By Five (5%)
2017 is proving to be the year of the murk bomb, with hazy tropical fruity numbers popping up left right and centre. If you don't brew a beer that looks like Tropicana, are you even really craft? Despite this style being incredibly in-vogue at the moment, occasionally a brewery makes an incarnation that makes you sit up and take notice. Brewed by Coventry based Twisted Barrel Ale and Macclesfield's very own Five Clouds, Five By Five is a strong fruit smoothie pale brewed with Mosaic, Cascade and Rakau hops and turbo charged with 40kg of mango and passionfruit puree. The end result is pure breakfast juice.
2) Harbour Brewing Co - Raspberry and Vanilla Berliner Weiss (3.5%)
I've long held a soft spot in my heart for Harbour. The brewers from Cornwall are in the midst of a huge expansion and shake up to their core range of beers and sometimes fly under the radar in comparison with a lot of breweries in the South-West. At 3.5%, the Raspberry and Vanilla Berliner Weiss is at the more sensible end of the range of beers at CBR, but it is a brilliant twist on the German style. Made using kettle-souring techniques, it is clean, tart and delicately sweet. The brewery describes it as Raspberry Ripple ice cream in beer form, and I'm scratching my head trying to think of a better description myself.
3) Founders Brewing Co - Kentucky Breakfast Stout (12.4%)
At the polar opposite of the spectrum from Harbour's Berliner Weiss is the almighty KBS from Founders, which weighs in at an enormous 12.4%. Having previously had a bottle the beer imported from the US and been slightly underwhelmed, I decided to take the opportunity to try it on draught, and boy am I glad I did. A great smack in the face of coffee, chocolate and coconut, with a boozy second wind from the year spent ageing in oak bourbon barrels, KBS really is one of those beers that just lives up to its exceptional reputation. Probably one of, if not the, best barrel aged beers I have ever tasted.
4) DEYA Brewing Company/Verdant Brewing Co - High Planes Drifter (8%)
I'm honestly struggling to find the words for how impressed I am with DEYA Brewing Company. The Cheltenham-based brewery appear to have come out of seemingly nowhere to start producing some of the most consistently excellent beers on the UK market right now, and this collaboration brew with Cornwall high-flyers Verdant is probably them at their very best. I actually had this after the festival was over out of a can kindly supplied by Theo, but I can imagine it was even better on keg. A filthy great dank juice-bomb of a Double IPA full of Citra, Mosaic and Amarillo hops, High Planes Drifter is as good as any of the DIPAs currently being produced by Cloudwater in my opinion.
5) Gun Brewery - Sorachi Ace DIPA (7.4%)
It takes something very special to get me to drink a beer with Sorachi Ace hops in. It takes a minor miracle for me to select a beer with Sorachi Ace hops in as one of my top beers of a festival, but thats exactly what Sussex-based Gun brewery have managed to do. I've been hugely impressed with the brewery's cask range in the past, but this beer more than proved their keg range can stand up to the very best in the business. An excellent antidote to all the juice-bombs on offer, this sweet, caramel and marmalade-esque Double IPA hit all the right spots for me.
*FULL DISCLAIMER*: I quite obviously was unable to try beers from a great number of excellent breweries during the five hour trade session, and hence my list is undoubtedly entirely subjective. Please don't take it to heart if I didn't mention a beer you thought was an absolute world-beater.