Following the initial nomination of Harbour Aji Limon IPA yesterday, our annual look back at the most memorable new British beers continues. There are five other places to fill in the list, and for the next choice, we head off on a long north-easterly journey from Cornwall, to the county of West Yorkshire. There, on one of the roads out of Huddersfield, you’ll find Magic Rock Brewing Co. In the spring, they delivered the example of the style for 2013…
Salty Kiss (4.1%)
Magic Rock Brewery, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
By my unofficial reckoning, 2010 was the year that Black IPA’s took over the UK, as our native brewers looked at Cascadian Dark Ales and re-interpreted them for the home market. Following that, 2011 was the year of ‘craft lagers’. In 2012, everyone was dipping their collective toes into the art of saisons. For this past year, one beer style above all became prevalent amongst the modern-thinking British breweries (and it wasn’t Session IPA’s, as I predicted in January) – Sours.
Now, of course sours were produced on these beer-loving islands before 01/01/2013, but to me it seems like plenty of breweries have had a go this year, or at least thought about unleashing the bugs over these past twelve months. That decision is not one to be taken lightly, as the merry microbes need to be carefully contained, lest they wreak havoc on the brewery’s regular, non-tangy offerings. Also, outside the dangerously poppable ‘craft beer bubble’ sour beers are a tough sell; they take some getting used to, to put it mildly.
Take one particular type of sour beer – Gose. A relatively low-strength wheat beer made with coriander and salt, inoculated with lactic acid bacteria, these are right at the very tip of where experimental beermaking is in 2013 – historical styles, re-interpreted by modern breweries, served by a variety of dispense methods. And Magic Rock’s Salty Kiss might just be the best. A collaboration with Anders Kissmeyer (hence the name), the original version was flavoured with gooseberries, sea buckthorn and sea salt.
I can understand why some people might not like it, but (irrespective of the final taste) why breweries make beer like this is utterly fascinating. I first tried Salty Kiss at the Hanging Bat, in the initial release, and watched people have the concept explained to them, and either go away loving it or grimly sipping their half as if it would bite them. It was fairly tart, but not as much as I was expecting (to be fair, I approached as if trying to catch a skittish spider). Green, zappy gooseberry, some tingling, pithy, sourness – and there, at the end, a whisper of salt striking across the palate. Just incredible.
Join us tomorrow for the next in our series of best new British beers of 2013, which hails from an area I know very well – Scotland. Find out then what beer it is, and who made it. As for Salty Kiss, it was so-well received, it even made the Independent – and has since been re-brewed, in lime and then pink grapefruit versions. No, really.