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First things first, an apology. I’ve not been posting very much lately. Sorry about that. It turns out doing a Masters degree is a LOT more time consuming than I’d envisaged, and alas Beeson on Beer has fallen by the wayside a little over the last couple of months. However, at the weekend I went to visit my brother in Cardiff and we decided to crack open a couple of beers I’d been waiting rather a long time to try. I decided it was finally time to get back on the bandwagon, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to write about a rare and interesting set of beers.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde are the result of a very special collaboration between Tottenham-based Beavertown and Danish brewery To Øl . The concept behind the beers was to create a pale base wort, before splitting it in two to create two very different styles of beer to represent the duality of human nature (yes, it sounds pretentious, but bear with me!)
First up is Dr. Jekyll. This 8.1% Belgian Pale was created by fermenting the pale wort from the original mash with Brettanomyces yeast and the addition of Lactobacillus bacteria, before being barrel-aged in Muscat wine barrels. It pours a light, golden amber, with little-to-no head and minimal carbonation. The aroma is pure funk, with huge amounts of bretty, dry fruit character.
Taking the first few sips of the beer, I am blown away by the similarities it shares with this year’s batch of Wild Beer Co.’s Schnoodlepip; it is extremely tart, with subtle hints of orange and gooseberry. Extremely drinkable for a beer north of eight per cent proof, I find myself quaffing it far too quickly and would have quite liked more than half of a bottle.
Mr. Hyde, however, is an entirely different proposition. Although rumoured to be fermented with the same yeast strain as its counterpart, the original pale wort has been blended with another wort produced from beech wood smoked malts, chocolate malts, roasted barley and cassanade sugars. The resulting beer was then aged in Speyside Whisky casks to create a monstrous 13.7% Imperial Stout.
Mr. Hyde glugs out of the bottle and into my oversized wine glass a silky jet black colour, devoid of any head or carbonation. It smells as you would expect, with lots of ripe fruit character and more than a whiff of peaty, almost tobacco-like notes. The taste is both intensely rich and unsurprisingly woody. I was a little disappointed not to get a bit more of the flavour from the Whisky in the finished product, but it still made for a fantastic nightcap, and unlike with Dr. Jekyll, half a bottle was more than enough to send me nodding off in-front of the TV...
Beer Name: Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde Style: Muscat Barrel Aged, Gooseberry Belgian Pale / Scotch Barrel Aged Imperial Stout ABV: 8.1%/13.7% Brewery: Beavertown & To Øl
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Now in its fourth year of existence, the annual launch of The Rainbow Project is one of the most anticipated events in every beer geek's calendar. The Project, which started life at Siren Craft Brewery in Berkshire in 2013, has in recent years produced some of the most highly sought after beers in the UK beer industry, including Buxton & Omnipollo's (in)famous Yellow Belly in 2014 and Hawkshead & Crooked Stave's Key Lime Tau last year.
For the 2016 Project, seven UK breweries teamed up with counterparts from New Zealand to each brew a beer, as ever, based on a colour of the rainbow. The beers were launched at parties across the country on Saturday 17 September, and I, along with many others, headed to where it all began at Siren, eager to sample this year's offerings.
Arriving into Wokingham train station around half one, I am greeted by the sight of a huge white double decker bus crammed full of adults more excitable than a group of children on Christmas. We pile on, and make the short bus ride to the industrial estate in Finchampsted, where Siren call home. There is already a sizeable queue on arrival, and we pass the time slugging back cans of Gamma Ray being sold by one the volunteers at the event. Soon, we are the proud owners of a pristine Rainbow Project glass and ready to get stuck in.
As well as the seven Rainbow beers, there are offerings from each of the breweries involved in the project, as well as a small number from those involved in the collaborations in previous years, such as Cigar City, and three from local microbrewery Elusive Brewing Co., who brew out of a small 5 Barrel kit in a storage unit just round the corner from Siren. Food is provided courtesy of street food vendors Original Patty Men & Louisiana Chilli Shack and snack specialists Serious Pig and Karkli. Siren are also selling some of their own bottled beers, as well as some pretty swanky looking merch. Beers are purchased using tokens, which cost £2 and can be exchanged for either a third or a half a pint, depending on the beer in question. Despite ominous clouds suggesting the contrary, it remains dry throughout the day, making for a vibrant but not too overcrowded atmosphere inside the brewery.
I decide to begin proceedings with Sourbet, a 3.7% Raspberry and Lemon Berliner Weisse from Wellington-based Fork Brewing. A delicately tart and refreshing session strength beer, it provides me with a little time to weigh up my options and plot my route to eventual and inevitable oblivion. I am stuck by the demographic of the punters visiting the brewery, with the average clientele somewhat older than I'd anticipated, showing that it isn't just trendy youngsters who have bought into the hype surrounding the Rainbow Project and ever-growing UK craft movement. There are also a pleasing amount of women at the brewery, further debunking the myth that drinking beer is a male-dominated pastime.
Fearful that the combined thirst of the attendees would exhaust Siren's limited supply of the seven beers I'd made the visit to try, I head over to bar five and grab a third of Magic Rock & Fork Brewing's collaboration - The Upside Down. Inspired by the colour yellow, the beer is a 6% Kettle-Soured, Tropical Fruit Wit Beer, fermented entirely using Brett Trois, a yeast strain formerly thought to be Brettanomyces. Upon initially tasting The Upside Down, it isn't hard to see why the yeast strain was mistakenly identified, with a strong tart and funky-like mouthfeel that is remarkably Brett-esque being produced. A healthy dry-hop dosage of Citra, Equinox, Simcoe and Mosaic give the beer huge tropical aromas, only aided by the addition of passionfruit and mango juice. The kettle-souring of the beer to a P.H. of 3.6 prior to boiling locks in a base-level of tartness which compliments the juicy fruit flavours excellently. I'm (half) tempted to go back for another.
Next up its a quick hop over to bar four and the turn of Project debutants Burning Sky. Replacing Buxton in this year's Project is a tough ask, and Burning Sky were paired with Auckland's Liberty Brewing Co to brew a beer based on the colour Orange. Branded as an "eclectic, borderless beer", Descent into the Maelstrom is a 6.6% pale fermented with an Ardennes yeast strain and aged in White Burgendy Barrels. Post ageing, Descent into the Maelstrom was injected with a hefty dose of orange and grapefruit zest, before being dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Motueka hops. However, after Magic Rock/Fork's tropical fruit explosion, unfortunately I find Descent into the Maelstrom a little disappointing. The barrel ageing process, combined with the Nelson Sauvin, produces a long, dry, almost vinegary finish that dominates the palette and gives a powerful alcohol hit that I didn't need or expect before 3pm.
Luckily, Rainbow beer number three is quite possibly the best of the lot. Never one to do things by halves, Wild Beer Co took their colour of blue more metaphorically than literally, teaming up with 8 Wired to produce Black and Blue, a raw, unhopped, unboiled bourbon cask barrel aged sour inspired by the concept of a French black & blue steak. The result is nothing short of spectacular; an intensely acidic, almost lambic-esque beer that is perfectly balanced and incredibly tangy. Probably as close as any UK brewery has gotten to Belgium in terms of sour beer.
My favourite of last year's Rainbow beers was Cumbria based Hawkshead's Key Lime Tau, a kettle soured lactose infused Golden Ale that was so good, they brewed it again earlier in the year. Consequently, I can't wait to get my paws on their 2016 offering, a 6% seafood gose with New Zealand hops and green gooseberries, made in collaboration with Yeastie Boys. Brewed with Loch Fyne Oysters and green lipped mussels from New Zealand, Kai Moana Gose is lightly tart and has a slight salty edge, although neither of the two flavours is overpowering. In fact, there is very little overpowering about the beer at all; an excellent palette cleanser that would be perfect paired alongside a seafood dish, but that doesn't enthuse me in quite the same way as Wild Beer Co or Magic Rock's efforts.
Starting to feel the effects of a long afternoon of drinking, we tactically decide to purchase some posh-pepperami beer sticks from Serious Pig to soak up some of the alcohol. After numerous complex and sour beers, I'm really starting to crave a no-nonsense IPA. Luckily, Parrotdog and Garage Project are only too happy to oblige, and after a brief respite we indulge ourselves with the former's delicately floral Forget me Not and the latter's dank and resinous Pernicious Weed. Clearly its not just us and the US who can brew great hoppy beers...
With time of the essence and alcohol tolerance limited, however, I quickly decide to return once again to the Rainbow Project beers. Up next is Beavertown and Parrotdog's Universal Mind, a historic Dortmund style Adambier coming in at a whopping 10.5%. Traditionally dark in colour and aged in wood for over a year, Adambiers are no longer brewed commercially, but the style has been revived with a unique twist for this year's Rainbow Project. Universal Mind is a heavy, peaty, boozy and almost barley wine-esque red ale, given an almost Port-like quality by the two years it spent in Marsala wine barrels. It couldn't be further from the other Rainbow beers I have tried up until this point in proceedings, and it makes for a nice change of direction in what has been a day dominated by pales and sours.
Of course, a trip to Finchampsted wouldn't be complete without a trip round the corner to visit Elusive Brewing, a 5BBL microbrewery on the same industrial estate run by former homebrewer-turned-pro Andy Parker. Brewing just once a week since opening in April, Elusive Brewing are still at the very early stages of development and expansion, but are already producing a diverse range of fantastic beers on a kit partially paid for by Andy's homebrewing exploits (Winning a Craft Beer Co. competition provided him with £5,000 & gave him the chance to brew commercially with Dark Star). Andy already has plans to take over the storage unit next door for extra fermentation space, and having tasted all three of Elusive's beers for sale on the day, I can confirm that this is very good news indeed.
Returning to Siren, I decide it is time to hit up Original Pattymen for my dirty burger fix. After some deliberation, I go all out for the Bourbon Butt plug; a monster of a beerburger with bourbon spiked peanut butter, bacon jam and cheddar cheese. The end-product has me quite literally salivating at the mouth and is demolished within seconds, leaving me craving another. I wash it down with a third of Bloody Notorious, an 8% Blood Orange Double IPA brewed by Beavertown in collaboration with Boneyard, a match made in heaven. Now firmly the wrong side of tipsy, I head for the penultimate Rainbow Project beer, Royal Ale, an 8.5% English Barley Wine with riesling grape juice. Originally set to be brewed by Partizan and Panhead, the beer ended up being made solely by the London based brewery in acrimonious circumstances after Panhead were bought out by Lion group, who are in turn owned by Japanese beverage giant Kirin. As it turns out, Royal Ale is possibly my least favourite of the Rainbow beers, a little bit on the thin side and lacking in any standout qualities or characteristics.
Finally, I head on over to bar one to sample Siren's own Rainbow beer, Blacklight banana, brewed in collaboration with Wellington brewery Garage Project. Based on the colour indigo, the beer is a 9.2% Imperial Stout with bananas, molasses and bourbon barrel aged coffee. The indigo connection comes from the bananas, which apparently glow indigo under UV light when ripe. Blacklight Banana is an intensely sweet and silky smooth stout, with a huge banana hit and a deceptive drinkability for its strength. It is a worthy beer to round off the Rainbow Project and indeed the evening, and the train ride back to London flies past in a booze-induced daze, penetrated only by the slight regret of not having been able to try all of the other beers on offer throughout the day.
On the whole the 2016 Rainbow Project launch party has to go down as an unqualified success. Thanks must go to all the breweries involved and to the volunteers who helped out on the day, but particularly to Siren, who hosted a brilliant event that was welcoming and friendly, yet also incredibly well organised and great value for money.
“I like it because I can drink several pints of it and not fall over on the way home,” laughs Alex Grieg, as he takes the first sip of Kent session pale from a jug. We’re sat on a pair of slightly tired looking red sofas in the back-end of Fuggles Beer Café, the artisan pub-come-bar owned and run by Alex in Tunbridge Wells. Approaching it’s third birthday in November, Fuggles has become one of the most popular haunts in the town, as well as gaining a reputation for having the most varied and exciting beer selection in the South-East outside of London. The pub now boasts over a hundred beers on tap and in bottles and can rightly claim to be at the very forefront of the craft beer movement. I sat down with Alex to ask him about exactly why he thinks Fuggles has been so successful, and what he has in store for the future. Alex’s story is similar to that of many within the beer industry, having worked in the trade for over twelve years. Starting out working in an off license at the age of eighteen, before moving up through the ranks of Pitcher & Piano, Indian Pale Ale wasn’t a term he had even heard of in his twenties. “I was a lager drinker like most of us probably were – Kroenenbourg was my tipple of choice at the time,” he tells me, “but then, when I was working in Chester, I had my first craft beer – a Brooklyn lager.” However, it wasn’t until the second beer; Goose Island Honkers, an English style bitter that Alex was truly converted to the cause; “I’d never tried anything like it; it was well hopped, it was well balanced. It was fantastic at the time.” Enthused, Alex left Pitcher & Piano, came back home to Tunbridge Wells and took a job in a pub called The Wells Kitchen: “that’s where the craft beer thing really started for me.”
Now a passionate advocate about the merits of good beer, Alex needed an outlet. Working at St. John’s Yard, he began to plot an escape. “I’d worked with some not particularly nice people (although not at St. John's Yard) and it got to the point where it was getting me down and I wasn’t happy,” he says, “so I had to do something for myself.” That something, as it turns out, was Fuggles. With £40,000 scrapped together – half from his Mother and Grandmother, half from a Government backed loan, Alex rented a run-down shoe-shop in the middle of Tunbridge Wells, and turned it into a “fairly threadbare” beer café, opening its doors to the public in November 2013.
Fuggles was an instant hit. Initially serving four cask ales, ten keg beers and a number of bottles from Belgium and the UK, the pub enjoyed a huge level of success within the local community and was soon expanding to serve a range of spirits and whiskies. The pub now boasts over forty different gins, and a similar number of whiskies, something which Alex tells me was a hugely important factor in the success of the business: “It (the gin) was something at the time which was really growing and I could see that it was a really great add-on to what we already did,” he notes. “As a bar, as a pub overall, it meant we appealed to more people that improved the atmosphere and everything else we were doing, I think.”
As we chat, I order a cheese and ale toastie from the food menu. Made with local farmhouse cheddar and Belgian Westmalle ale, as well as four types of leek and onion, the sandwiches are freshly prepared each morning, and are served alongside a range of cheese and charcuterie boards as the main food offerings in the pub. “All we wanted to do was something that was simple to prepare, tasted good, easy to put on a plate and went really well with the products we were selling,” Alex admits, “it was as simple as that. We never had room for a kitchen, so we had to keep it small.” Nonetheless, he takes does pride in giving a platform to local businesses, with many of the products sold coming from the surrounding areas in Kent. “Local provenance and local products are vital to what we do. We’ve got some fantastic breweries and some fantastic food producers within thirty miles or so of us – that’s amazing, we’re so lucky. It’s not our sole focus, but it’s lovely to have local products and to know where it comes from, and it’s nice to know and support the guys that make it, who are only round the corner.”
Of course, the main focus of Fuggles, is, and always will be beer. Naming the pub after a local hop was a obvious way of ensuring the pub and its bartenders never forget their original purpose, but watching the staff at work, it’s evident that probably won’t ever be an issue. “I’m adamant that staff know what they’re selling and how it tastes and how to sell that to a customer,” Alex says. Now in his early thirties, sporting a receding hairline and an obligatory bushy beard, he very much fits the bill of a craft beer pub owner. Watching the (predominately also bearded) barstaff chat with customers and recommend styles based on their preferences, it’s immediately evident that Alex invests a lot of time in training his staff. “A lot of the time the customers come to the bar and they’ll ask for a beer and they’re not sure want they want,” he explains. “They’ll ask for something light and hoppy for example and we need to be able to interpret that as bartenders and know what they mean by it. It’s largely to enhance the customer experience and service; we have to be able to offer customers the right product.”
On the particular day of my visit, Alex and his staff are busy preparing the bar for that evening’s event; a tap takeover with ten beers from Buxton Brewery. A brewery at the very vanguard of the beer movement in the UK, Alex is excited for his punters to try their new Belgian range. “One of the reasons we really wanted to get them down is that we specialise in Belgian beer and Buxton have just completed their range of Belgian inspired beers. We felt it was the perfect time to get them down to really showcase what they were doing with the influence they’ve had from Belgium alongside their core range and specials.” Amongst the beers available to try from the Derbyshire brewery are their Belgian Tripel and new Double IPA, Kingmaker. “Buxton are without a doubt up there in terms of UK breweries in general. They’re up there in the top ten quite happily sitting alongside Cloudwater, Magic Rock, Dark Star, Beavertown, Arbor, Kernel, Burning Sky etc,” Alex enthuses. “Its nice to give our core beer drinkers something to showcase a brewery that we really respect and really like.”
Alex explains the main reason he initially decided to feature Belgian beers in Fuggles came after being inspired by numerous visits to the country. “There’s almost a theatre around the way the Belgians serve their beer,” he says, “you get the correct glassware, the way the beer is poured and the effort that goes into it. Also the flavours and drinkability of some of the stronger beers just blew my mind and I really wanted to showcase that.” There certainly does seem to be an almost Belgian-feel to the bar, with its dimmed lighting and rustic, cobbled together furniture. A number of signs from various breweries adorn the walls, and dotted on each table is a candle in an independently brewed spirit bottle. Nonetheless, Alex is determined that the focus on Belgian and British beers does not limit Fuggles’ range, and has recently expanded to include beers from breweries such as De Molen and Kees brewery in Holland.
Part of the reason behind Fuggles’ immense success has been down to the pub’s ability to create a brand for itself, with the beer café now stocking T-shirts, bar-blades and growlers, enabling drinkers to take home up to two litres of their favourite draft beer with a twenty-five per cent discount. “When you open up a business like Fuggles you’re effectively creating a high street brand,” Alex states, “and you have to get your name out there and get people talking about your business; it’s free advertising basically!” Refusing to compare the Fuggles brand to that of high-intensity and outlandish breweries such as Brewdog, who have made a name for themselves through their ‘punk ethos’ as much as through their beer, he prefers to label his own strategy as more of “a slow cooking form of viral marketing.”
Despite being a huge success both financially and with local punters, Fuggles hasn’t always quite found favour with some more traditional beer drinkers, finishing runner up two years in a row in West Kent CAMRA’s pub of the year awards, despite Alex’s frankly obsessive nature when it comes to the condition of his cask ale (as we speak he tests his pint with a thermometer before declaring irritably that it is “just the wrong side of twelve degrees” before sending a co-worker down to the cellar to investigate.) “We’ve had a lot of really good press, we keep coming runner up in various things,” he acknowledges, “which obviously its nice but I’d love to win at some point – West Kent CAMRA if you’re listening, seriously, come on!”
On the topic of CAMRA’s future, a topic that has been the subject of much debate within the beer community in recent weeks, Alex has mixed feelings. He is unequivocally an advocate of promoting cask beer, “I think what’s fantastic about cask is that it’s a uniquely British product – there’s nobody else really doing it - I think it’s an underrated art form,” but questions the policy which has seen the organisation promote badly-conditioned beers on cask over more reliable keg beers. “I wish they (CAMRA) would focus more on cask beer in the marketplace. Generally they’re a good thing for the industry but they’re pushing a product that is so indifferent in so many pubs and that frustrates me," he sighs, "it’s not easy to go up to a Landlord and say: ‘Your beer tastes like shit mate, sort it out.’ but at the same time if the beer is too warm or it tastes like vinegar, I think that as part of the campaign maybe they ought to be mentioning it.” On what he would like to see the organisation do more of in the future, Alex is clear: “I think there’s an educational thing CAMRA could do, it’s members are very knowledgeable and they certainly know how beer should be tasting. That’s what I’d really like to see CAMRA doing – Improving the quality of cask ale.”
Whilst we are on the topic of the future, I enquire as to whether Alex believes the level of growth we have seen in the beer industry is sustainable, and in what direction he thinks the next step ought to be for UK breweries. “I’d like to hope that the industry will keep growing and keep expanding as it has done,” he replies, “and I hope breweries will continue to be more experimental and continue to revive old historical styles of beer.” He does think, however, that there remains room for improvement in terms of the quality of beer being produced by some breweries. “There’s a few breweries out there doing a huge load of new beers and collaborations yet the actual quality of the beer is not great, they’re just trying to get their name out there rather than focusing on making a really good core range and making that really solid and consistent.” Indeed, he warns that unless this standard can be met, some breweries will fall behind. “New breweries are opening left right and centre with a lot of money behind them such as Cloudwater, and the beer has been largely fantastic so far. That’s the benchmark. If you cant keep up with that you’ll struggle to create a long term, viable brewery.”
And what does the future hold for Fuggles? Rumours of expansion have been on the cards for some time now, with the pub having hosted a pop-up bar throughout November last year in Tonbridge Fire-station. “Yes, we’d love to expand,” Alex says coyly, “Hopefully by the end of the summer we’ll be able to get cracking on Fuggles number two.” On the location of this new bar, he refuses to be drawn, but tells me it will almost certainly be local. In the meantime, however, with more tap-takeovers, a beer club launching and a big refurbishment in the pipeline, the team have more than enough to be getting on with. “It should be enough to keep me busy until Autumn, I hope!” Alex laughs, before excusing himself to prepare for the evening's tap takeover. If I take one thing away from our talk, it’s that Fuggles certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Tunbridge Wells is spoilt for choice when it comes to beer. For a relatively small town, the number of good quality pubs - from traditional boozers like The Grove Tavern and The Bedford to hip new crafty hotspots like Fuggles Beer Cafe - is nothing short of remarkable. The newest such joint in town is The Pantiles Tap, which opened in November 2014. Situated just opposite the Corn Exchange in the Pantiles, and in the cellar of a former hotel, The Pantiles Tap is a stripped back, no frills attached tap-room style pub, with a rotating selection of some of the best beer from in the UK and abroad.
I must profess to being somewhat a regular at 'The Tap', having made the watering hole a regular stop off point on the way home from the centre of town. One of the nicest things about the pub for me is that due to its primary focus on beer and (recently) cider, it doesn't attract anywhere near as many of the problematic clientele as some of the other bars in town - something that really pays dividends during the manic festive period.
Run by Geoff Wentworth and his wife Jo, the pub itself is very minimalist, with little decor and rather harsh lighting that doesn't exactly give off a cosy ambience. For me, however, this is all part of The Tap's charm, which gives off a distinctly Eastern-European vibe. With a selection of eight Keg beers and six cask lines, it is second only to Fuggles in terms of variety and choice in Tunbridge Wells. Over the last year, beers from the likes of Magic Rock, Beavertown, Thornbridge, Brewdog, Stone and more have been regulars on the taps, whilst a large fridge opposite the bar holds a wide variety of bottled beers from across the world - although these don't come cheap, with no takeout option available.
On this particular visit just before Christmas, the beer selection was an absolute treat, with beers from Wild Beer Co, Dark Star, Anarchy Brew Co, Beavertown, Magic Rock and more gracing the line-up. I opted to start with Partizan Brewing and Prairie Artisan Ales 2015 Rainbow Project collaboration, Real Time Saison. A 6.6% Saison brewed with Kaffir lime, lemongrass and grapefruit Zest, this is a beer that couldn't be further from your average best bitter. Although a tad on the flat side, the beer pours a hazy golden yellow colour and is extremely refreshing. There is a definite tartness, with the grapefruit zest and lime really cutting through and dominating the flavour. An excellent palette cleansing beer for sure.
Next up, I decided to go with a reliable old favourite and have a half of Beavertown's 8-Ball Rye IPA. Far from being a safe bet, however, the 8-Ball came up incredibly juicy this particular evening and I ended up going back for a second half. At 6.2%, it's far from a session strength beer, but the combination of spicy rye malts and fruity hop flavours make it extremely hard to resist.
I ended the evening with Magic Rock's Custard Pie, a 6.7% Wit beer brewed in collaboration with Italian brewery Birra Toccalmatoo. Another fairly light blonde coloured beer, Custard Pie is brewed using US Hefe Yeast and New Zealand and US Hops, with vanilla added during the dry-hopping phase. This results in a dominant belgian-esque banana flavour, with some more subtly fruit undertones (think lime and apricots). I have to confess that it was a little too sweet for my liking, but certainly an intriguing beer that serves as further evidence that Magic Rock are at the forefront of the craft revolution.
The Pantiles Tap is not a pub in the traditional sense. The lack of spirits and limited selection of wine, combined with not serving food (bar the occasional cheese roll and some excellent bar snacks) means that it is difficult to recommend the pub as the ideal destination for a date or romantic night out. However, if you are lucky enough to have friends who enjoy great beer, then you would be hard pressed to find another pub in Tunbridge Wells with the selection, variety and passion for beer that are self evident in everything The Tap does.
Previously the preserve of bland, flavourless and fizzy lagers, cans are fast becoming the dispensing method of choice for craft breweries - broadly speaking, breweries that are independently owned and brew using only high-quality ingredients - across the UK and overseas. Canned beer is more portable, quicker to cool and less likely to spoil due to light or oxygen exposure. It’s now a huge market both globally and in the UK. Containers are specifically designed using the latest technology to ensure that the beer does not taste metallic, as can be the case with mainstream lager brands.
We’ve selected some of our favourite ‘tinnies’, from breweries small and not-so-small. All are chosen for their conversation-starting qualities and we’ve given some background into the brewing process as well as the outfits carrying it out.
1. Camden Town Brewery India Hells Lager 6.2%: £2.89, cannedcraft.co.uk
Camden Town Brewery founder Jasper Cuppaidge set up shop in 2010 on a mission to prove that British breweries could produce good lager. India Hells Lager (IHL), its IPA-hybrid, proves this point very well. Packing a reasonable punch at 6.2%, IHL is an explosion of fruity flavours with a dry and bitter finish. Brewed using light Pilsner and Munich malts and stuffed full of juicy US and German hops, it goes brilliantly with the likes of spicy sausages or strong cheeses.
2. Wild Beer Co Bibble 4.2%: £2.10, wildbeer.myshopify.com
Somerset-based Wild Beer Co is famous for extravagant and complex beers that experiment with wild yeast strains and barrel ageing. Bibble, its signature pale ale, doesn’t hold back, despite its low ABV. Pouring a gorgeous deep amber, Mosaic and Amarillo hops give this session pale strong tropical flavours, balancing out an underlying yet not unpleasant bitterness. “Bibble" means to drink regularly in Somerset, something this makes it only too easy to do.
3. Weird Beard Brew Co Decadence Stout 5.5%: £2.69, beerhawk.co.uk
It’s not just pales, lagers and IPAs finding their way into cans nowadays. Weird Beard Brewery is among a host of makers experimenting with darker beers such as porters and stouts in cans. Decadence Stout is a dark black and incredibly rich stout, brewed with roasted malts that give it a strong espresso and dark chocolate flavour, along with undertones of liquorice and dried fruit.
4. Beavertown Gamma Ray 5.4%: £2.80, honestbrew.co.uk
Originally Hackney-based Beavertown upsized to Haringey and on its new site, totally embraced the canning revolution. It no longer bottles any of its beers, instead packaging everything from 10% triple IPAs to Yuzu sours in cans that are beautifully decorated by illustrator Nick Dwyer. Its stand-out beer is its American Pale Ale, Gamma Ray. Massive quantities of US hops give this a fruity citrus aroma, while pale and caramel malts combine for a bittersweet finish.
5. Brewdog Jackhammer 7.2%: £2.60, brewdog.com
Scottish craft beer behemoth Brewdog has dominated the industry since its launch in 2007 and has the largest canning line in Europe, capable of producing 34,000 beers an hour. It has used this new extra capacity to start putting its 7.2% IPA, Jackhammer into cans. The beer is an overwhelmingly bitter hop monster, which is not for the faint-hearted. Slight grapefruit and piney notes initially on the nose are followed by a bitter and resinous bite that blitzes the taste buds and dominates the palate.
6. The Waen Brewery Dangermousse 6%: £3.30, eebria.com
Dangermousse is this awarding-winning Welsh brewery’s first foray into the canned beer market. A supercharged version of its 4.2% golden pale ale Pamplemousse, it is chock-full of classic American Pale Ale flavours, with fruits such as orange, grapefruit and pineapple all featuring on the palate.
7. Brooklyn Brewery Lager 5.2%: £2.25, beermerchants.com
If you’re looking for lager, it’s hard to go wrong with the offering from New York’s Brooklyn Brewery. Reportedly brewed using a pre-prohibition recipe, its 5.2% flagship lager is a golden amber in colour and surprisingly malty. Floral and grassy on the tongue, the Viennese-style beer is refreshingly uncomplicated but interesting enough to warrant another sip. It’s great alongside spicy Mexican dishes such as fajitas.
8. Firestone Walker Brewing Company Easy Jack IPA 4.5%:£2.99, therealalecompany.co.uk
Easy Jack, Firestone Walker’s session IPA, was originally brewed using entirely new varieties of hops. Mandarina Bavaria, the primary hop, and Hull Melon, the secondary, were only put into production in 2013. As a result, when the beer was released, it sold out in eight weeks as all the hops had been used up. Now firmly on its roster and available in cans, it’s a full-bodied, orange-y offering with a malty backbone and a delicious, slightly earthy aroma.
9. Dark Star Brewing Co American Pale Ale 4.7%: £2.20, alesbymail.co.uk
Another new entrant to the canning scene, Dark Star brewery was labelled a pioneer when it launched this classic American Pale Ale in 2002. The East Sussex-based brewery is famous for its cask beers, but has now jumped on the can bandwagon. American Pale Ale is a dark-gold to amber in colour, and brewed using Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops. The result is a crisp, slightly dry and punchy pale, with a bitter, citrusy finish.
10. Flying Dog Brewery Snake Dog IPA 7.1%: £2.50, therealalecompany.co.uk
For our money, Snake Dog, a 7.1% IPA, is the best of maverick, US-based Flying Dog’s brews. The use of Columbus hops creates powerful grapefruit notes, while Warrior hops at the bittering stage ensure that the beer is dry and bitter in the finish. This is a well-rounded, strong IPA. The can looks great, too - like all the breweries tinnies, it’s decorated by Ralph Steadman, best known for illustrating Hunter S Thompson’s works.
Our first choice would have to be the moreish Beavertown Gamma Ray, but keep an eye out in the future for Magic Rock Brewery, whose fantastic beers are set to be released in cans sometime later in the year.
Originally posted on The Independent
Once upon a time, the beer scene in London was nothing short of diabolical. Back in the 1970's, the chances of finding a locally produced brew in the capital were few and far between. The industry was dominated by large monopolistic corporations such as Watneys and Whitbread and Bass, producing bland, boring watery bitters. Fast forward 40 years or so, however, and the beer industry in the city is thriving. Just last year over 30 new breweries opened in London alone, whilst the overall number of active breweries is around 80. Furthermore, the variety of beer on offer has soared, as the 'craft' movement has swept through the city. Pop into a pub in London today and you will likely find a range of styles, from classic IPA's and lagers, to intriguing belgian saisons and fruit beers.
Following the news last week that The Office of National Statistics have added craft beer to their basket of goods used to calculate the Consumer Price Index, here is a rundown of five of the best breweries on offer in the capital.
Brew By Numbers
Launched in December 2012 by two friends Tom and Dave, Brew By Numbersspecialize in creating exciting and flavoursome beers using the finest ingredients. Based on Enid Street in the heart of Bermondsey BBNo.’s brewhouse is open every Saturday from 10:00-17:00. The numbers on each BBNo bottle represent the style and the recipe used for that particular brew, in that order.
Camden Town Brewery
Smuggled away underneath the arches of Kentish Town West Overground station, Camden Town Brewery have been quietly building a craft beer empire since starting out in 2010. Brewing a core range of five beers, including their flagship Hells Lager, Camden Brewery run tours of the bar and brewery on Thursday's and Saturdays. Hurry though, they intend to move to a new larger brewery site in the near future.
The Kernel Brewery
Open every Saturday from 9:00-14:00, The Kernel Brewery is based right in the heart of Bermondsey's 'Beer Mile'. The brewery was founded in 2009 by Evin O’Riordain, a former cheesemonger. Brewing an exciting range of hoppy Indian Pale Ales, Stouts and Porters, Kernel are at the forefront of London's bustling beer scene.
Known primarily for their fantastic artwork, designed by artist Nick Dwyer, Beavertown Brewery also brew some of the best tasting beer this side of the Atlantic. Inspired by American craft beers and experimental ales, Beavertown brew a selection of core canned beers and one off collaborations with other breweries. The brewery was set up in December 2011 in the kitchen of Duke's Brew and Que in Hackney. Now based in Tottenham Hale, their brewery is open every Saturday and also sells T-Shirts, posters and more.
Weird Beard Brew Co.
Another brewery based in Bermondsey, Weird Beard Brewing Co. is a no-compromise hop-focused brewery that specialize in IPA's and pale ales. Set up by two former homebrewers, Gregg and Bryan, the brewery is open on the first Saturday of each month between 12:00-18:00 selling a selection of their latest brews.
Originally posted on HuffingtonPost.com