As we head into the New Year, the UK brewing scene seems to be in great shape. The economic climate might be as bad as a Scottish hurricane, and the Government seems intent on sticking it to everybody in the industry (with a few, notable, exceptions) – but this is a fantastic time to be a beer drinker. Whether you like traditional foamy pints of cask ale, or tonsil-stripping keg beer in funny glassware – 2012 could be very good for British brewing. Why? Well, we think several breweries are going to have breakout years.* Here’s our list of the players who are about to step up – from both sides of the border…
Tempest Brewing Co
Considering what they did in 2011, this year could be when Kelso’s Tempest Brewing becomes a major name in UK brewing. Brewer Gavin Meiklejohn has already produced some astonishing beer from his plant in an abandoned dairy in the Scottish Borders. RyePA was one of our beers of the year – but any of half a dozen could have featured. Tempest are our tip to look for in 2012 when it comes to Scottish brewing.
Black Isle Brewery
If there’s one producer north of the border that seem rejuvenated, it’s Black Isle. A new sales and marketing team in 2011, coupled with a new head brewer (Colin Stronge, ex-Marble of Manchester) – and all of a sudden the 4% pale ales have been shunted aside by barrel-aged this and Imperial that. The session beers are still there (some having been gently tweaked) – but Black Isle aren’t so much on a roll as a Highland charge. Don’t believe us? Here’s what they have planned…
I’ve never been to Stuart McLuckie’s tiny brewery, located somewhere in the midst of the Fife countryside. I imagine there’s a small barn where you have to turn the second flowerpot on a certain shelf to gain access. The beers Stuart produces taste like they come from the chamber of an underground genius – delivered by hand to only a couple of Scottish outlets, they are as rare as beer gets. Look for great things from Luckie in 2012.
The most anxiously-awaited signature in Edinburgh since that to cancel the trams has finally taken place (although the trams are still with us). Loanhead’s Stewart Brewing have finally received permission to relocate their facility to…Loanhead. Moving round the corner means more room for Steve, Jo and the team – already pushed to the limit. It also means a chance to experiment more, and to add to their lineup this year.
Loch Ness Brewery
The Benleva Hotel in Drumnadrochit gained a small two-barrel plant last year, and after a sensible amount of time getting ideas together – look out for the Loch Ness Brewery in 2012. Both their cask and bottling operations begin in earnest very soon, so for what is pretty much an entirely unknown quantity, hopefully good beer will be the result. There are a few recent start-ups in Scotland now, June’s Scottish Real Ale Festival could see plenty of new faces.
Being based in Edinburgh, we often find out about English brewing news second-hand – from some of our peers over the border. Holmfirth’s Summer Wine Brewery blazed a trail through the Yorkshire blogosphere last year – and they have the potential to go even bigger in 2012. Keen to experiment, and at that stage where anything seems possible, a new beer every other week could be the order of the day for many months.
We do stretch our legs sometimes, however, and in November we Twissup’d around Newcastle with many other beer fans. One of the day’s many highlights was a trip to Tyne Bank (another being their Cherry Stout). Having only begun in May 2011, they are clearly run the right way – by people with a genuine passion for beer. As their distribution network increases throughout 2012, they are definitely ones to watch over the near future.
The world loves an underdog, and in brewing there’s no bigger hill to climb than opening a brewery by yourself. Toby McKenzie took the plunge in late-2010, opening the RedWillow Brewery in an industrial unit in Macclesfield. His oyster stout – Fathomless – was one of our best new beers of last year, and his blog really brings home how hard it is to brew for a living. But with Toby’s determination, RedWillow will make it.
Henley’s Lovibonds Brewery aren’t new on the scene – they were founded in 2005, following in the footsteps of their namesakes who traded in the town for just over 50yrs. Jeff Rosenmeier and his team make all kinds of beer, in all kinds of different ways. Three weeks ago several of their products reached Scotland for the first time – at the opening of Glasgow’s Bruadar Bar. If more follows, the secret could be out.
Mallinsons Brewing Co
Is there a harder working brewer in Britain than Tara Mallinson? Fans of hoppy golden ales in Huddersfield have been spoiled for choice over the last five years or so. Currently working on their 250th(ish) creation, Mallinson’s know what they do well, and stick to it. Every one of their beers I’ve tried has been incredibly drinkable – if they keep going at the same pace, global session dominance awaits.
So that’s our list – undoubtedly there will be plenty of other new UK breweries that will capture the attention over the next twelve months, and many more existing producers who will raise their games in 2012. We couldn’t fit them all on this post – which are you looking towards for great things this year?
*And when have we ever been wrong?