Breweries to watch out for in 2016

Posted by on Feb 2, 2016 in English Beer, Scottish Beer | 11 Comments

So the final ‘best of last year/look out for this year’ post has rolled around again – stretching the whole thing out into February. It’s the annual list of 10 Scottish and English beermakers who are going to have breakout years, or will otherwise be interesting to watch, to see how they get on. This is the fifth time I’ve done this, although it really doesn’t feel like it (you can check out previous years’ predictions here; 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012).

Whilst everyone has seemingly gone craft beer crazy (either with a positive or negative reaction), the skill, commitment and imagination of the men and women that make our beer hasn’t changed – whatever polarising term is used to describe it. So here is the list of Scottish and English breweries who will move to that next level over the course of this coming year, or who have interesting stories to watch (with apologies as ever to producers in other parts of the UK, who’s scenes I know less well)…



Swannay Brewery – My overall pick to have a breakout year won’t be a surprise to many people north of the border – but that’s kind of the point. The ex-Highland Brewing Company are a near-household name in beery circles here, but I have a feeling that more and more people will discover just how brilliant their beers are in 2016. Rob Hill is the best brewer in Scotland, and with son Lewis adding new offerings to their supremely consistent cask series, Swannay have a one-two punch to rival any other. With a new identity, and online sales finally available, this could be the year Highland Swannay will become more lowland and everyone can enjoy the fruit of their considerable Orcadian labours.




Edinburgh Beer Factory – Few new breweries hire an entire art gallery to launch their wares, and fewer still open up with just a single beer (and a lager at that). EBF arrived on the scene last Autumn with a big-budget launch of their Eduardo Paolozzi-inspired lager at the Dean Gallery of Modern Art. That is a serious statement of intent – but one that isn’t a huge surprise given the brewery is a venture of the Dunsmore family (John Dunsmore being the ex-Chief Executive of the Tennents/Magners owning C&C Group). Look for a swift escalation of their presence in 2016, and Paolozzi doing for lager what Innis & Gunn did for barrel-aged beers.




six°north – Another producer on the rise, albeit at less stratospheric rate than the EBF, are S°N. And not before time, either – the self-styled (and entirely accurate) ‘Belgian Brewers of Scotland’ have come a long way since the days of their small site near the seafront in Stonehaven, with a larger production brewery and two dedicated bars – and a third to open in the centre of Edinburgh shortly. They may brew six degrees north of their spiritual homeland, but the beers produced are as faithful a representation of those beers as any you could wish for – and now with more of their own bars than ever, plus increasing distribution deals, look out for six°north as this could very much be their year.




Fallen Brewing Co – One of the joys of the Craft Beer Revolution (or whatever else you want to call it) is the choice we now have, from breweries ever more local to us. Nigh-on perfect Belgian beer from Stonehaven? Sure! Habanero, date and cacao Imperial Porter from rural Stirlingshire? Why not! That’s the latest upcoming release from Paul Fallen, and it reflects the recent inventive upturn from his Kippen brewery. Paul’s beers have always been brilliantly well made, but you get the sense that he is only now revelling in the joy that owning your own production brewery can truly yield. Keep an eye on other outgoings from the old railway station brewery over the course of this year.




Elixir – Ok, so this might be more of a personal plea than anything else, but the brewing world is a far less creative place when the West Coast Whirlwind isn’t firing on all cylinders. Elixir Brew Co’s Benjamin Bullen has been all too intermittent of late in his beermaking, and that is a huge shame for anyone who loves beers a little out of the usual. Let’s hope 2016 means a regular return to the brewery frontline for Elixir, as it has been fairly quiet since the launch of Benjii’s Imperial Scotch Ale ‘Benedictine Groove II: Enter the Flagon’ at the end of August. There isn’t a single beermaker in the country with as much creative force when he gets going – here’s hoping more of that Aussie Chutzpah is rolled out as soon as possible.



Cloudwater – I’m not sure if there was an English brewery who generated more of a steadily-rising buzz amongst the beer community last year than Cloudwater. Right from the off – way before that, in fact – people got on board with the messages emanating from the Manchester brewery created by Paul Jones and his Northern dream team. And so far, all of that has proved well-founded. The broad span of styles, dispense methods, and the rotation of Cloudwater’s core lineup every four months – there really is something for everybody. And over the course of the year ahead, as they continue to key in those beers, they are going to be the brewery to keep an eye on to see how their beers, and company, develop.




The Wild Beer Co – Another fairly obvious – but no less welcome – choice for a brewery to have an amazing year are Somerset’s finest; the Wild Beer Co. Is there a brewery right at this moment with a better range of well-made, inventive beers? An easy pick for a breakout year, but with the recent arrival of their first bar and restaurant (Jessop House, in Cheltenham) they are setting their sights ever higher. And there are few other breweries who I think could make a better go of it than the Wild Beer Co. Look for them to expand as they continue to become the next big player in the UK craft scene.



Lost and Grounded

Lost & Grounded – Social media has many pros and cons, but one of its greatest uses is watching something come together as it happens – and this also holds true for new breweries. Cloudwater certainly used this to their advantage – and this next pick are similarly one to watch as their brewery just begins to take shape. Ex-Camden Town brewing director Alex Troncoso and his partner Annie are starting up a production facility in Bristol called Lost & Grounded, and with their skill and reputation it is already being talked about as one of the breweries to watch in 2016. Still at the exciting/terrifying stage of ordering equipment and advertising for staff, the beers are a while away – but keep an eye on their progress as they will be worth it.




Mondo Brewing Co – A lot of these predictions are based on reputations, as breweries who have been solid for years (or extremely good for less long) look like they are due for making the leap. This particular pick is all down to my recent personal experience. A visit last week to Mondo Brewing Company in Battersea was rewarded with a series of excellent beers and a mightily impressive kit and group of people. Look out for a blog post on that visit soon, when I get a chance, but these days to make a scene in London is only going to get harder for breweries due to the increasingly ultra-competitive market – but from first-hand experience, Mondo are going to make it with room to spare.




Elusive Brewing – Finally, we end this lightning-tour of premonitions in the Royal County of Berkshire, and with yet another hugely exciting prospect. Multi award-winning homebrewer Andy Parker is a hugely talented beermaker, and the chance to saddle up and head out into the wide world of brewing is a deserved next step. Up to this point, Elusive Brewing’s beers have been released as collaborations (peaking with 2014’s BOTY candidate Lord Nelson), and the time has finally come for steel to be ordered and drainage channels cut, in Andy’s own brewery in Finchampstead. From this Spring, if all goes to plan, Elusive Brewing’s beers will be a lot easier to track down, and that can’t come soon enough.

So, what do you think? Any breweries out there who you think will have breakout years in 2016, or have stories that you really want to follow? Let me know in the comments. As ever, I’ll be checking back with these breweries at the mid-way point of the year, to see how they have been getting on…


  1. Dan F
    February 2, 2016

    With the pedigree behind Lost and Grounded Brewers I think they will be the breakaway brewery this year. Mr Trincoso is an excellent technical brewer and world beer judge. I am excited for all on this list but my money is on Bristol this year!
    Joining the champs that are Moor Beer and Wiper and True, look out London!

  2. Dan F
    February 2, 2016

    It should be said that Mr Trincoso was director of Brewing at little creatures brewery in Australia for many years as well. Beautifully crafted beers.

    I have my eye also on Elusive Beer. One to watch!

    Have a very nice day.

  3. John R
    February 2, 2016

    I think Marble in Manchester are due for a good year. I personally think they have coasted for a while and even thief baseline beers ie Lagonda & Dobba have needed touching up. New year – New Brewer with a history of innovation at Thornbridge and Buxton should be the excitement base to build upon. Expecting big things rather than the “Green Lagonda” I was served (and lectured on by Management,” in Thomas St last November). Really expecting them to give other emerging Manchester breweries a run for their money in 2016

  4. Simon W
    February 2, 2016

    I’m hugely impressed with everything from Vocation – not sure where they are on your radar.

  5. Smear
    February 3, 2016

    Wylam Brewery. Won “Britains 100 hottest beers 2015” by public vote, building a new brewery in Newcastle city centre, and smashing out excellent beers like no tomorrow. You pretty much can’t go into a decent pub or beer in the north east without seeing one of their beers.

  6. Beermunster
    February 3, 2016

    I would add Brew Foundation to that list. They are only a tiny micro-brewery at the moment, but I tried 3 of their beers last weekend, and every one was beautifully balanced and very moreish.

  7. Ben
    February 3, 2016

    An exciting list and I’m looking forward to trying some new beers in the coming months.

    I would agree that Wylam Brewery is one to watch. If only to check they aren’t continuing to put out for sale completely flat, murky brown dishwater. The hype surrounding them is baffling when that beer sits on shelves and they know the state it is in.

  8. bob binning
    February 3, 2016

    I hope it’s a good year for Tempest in the Scottish Borders. Outstanding beers, esp. Long White Cloud.

  9. Chris
    February 3, 2016

    Agree with a lot of the above. Been working with 6DN a lot this month, some amazing collab beers (De Ranke, Adnams to name two) ready to come out soon. The trial Pils was excellent and there’s a Flanders Red style almost ready, and two bottled 2yr old+ sours.
    Wylam’s new taproom will be a game changer, it’s such an incredible space and the new direction allows Ben to brew with more freedom. The new stuff has been extremely good.
    Lost and Grounded have easily the best pedigree of any new brewery, genuinely excited about that. Same for Andy at Elusive, and Jonny Bright at After The Harvest. Also Phil Lowry, possibly the most well connected man in beer, opening Breakwater Brewery in Dover.
    Redchurch are building a new brewery and just raised £500k through crowd funding and will be growing fast.
    My bet for this year though, I’ll be watching Beavertown. They’re going to go massive.

  10. dave
    February 4, 2016

    Phil Lowry the most well connected man in brewing? Is this a joke?

  11. Chris | Hanging Bat
    February 7, 2016

    Beer, not brewing. Semantics; powerful stuff. If it’s a joke it’s not one of my best.

    I sense that may be you don’t like Phil? Or may be my comment affected the size of your penis? Sorry if it did. Best not to worry too much, it’s all subjective after all. May be you’re better connected, ‘Dave’? Tell you what, write a blog about how well connected you are and may be your penis will get bigger again. Worth a try, huh. It’s cheaper than buying a sports car at any rate.

Leave a Reply