Tag Archives: Harbour

Breweries to watch out for in 2017

Here we are, staring bleary-eyed at another year having rolled around. 2016 saw lean times on the BeerCast in terms of writing, but there was more than ever going on in the world of brewing in the UK. As this is now the tenth year I have been writing about beer, that is more than reason to fire up the presses once again.

Time to kick things off in the traditional manner by taking a look ahead at some producers in England and Scotland to keep an eye on throughout the course of 2017. I’ve done this every year since 2012 and you can have a look at previous predictions here; 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012).

As ever, these are a few breweries who have interesting stories to keep an eye on and see how they progress – I’ll post a follow-up midway through the year to chart their progress…



SCOTLAND

Williams Bros – My overall pick to watch for Scotland would be the Brotherhood from Alloa. Williams Bros announced yesterday morning a planned expansion that’s short on concrete detail but includes a scaling up described as ‘radical’ and an overall aim of providing a bespoke packaging service for small-scale brewers looking to begin exporting. Williams Bros embraced canning last year, and waters thus tested they could carve themselves another niche pairing other can-curious breweries with exporters such as the Craft Beer Clan of Scotland (with whom they have an existing barrel-ageing programme). It’s barely two years since WB last expanded (to the tune of £1m); the fact that they are looking to re-up in 2017 is fascinating.

 

 

Bellfield Brewery – One of the increasing trends to follow over the course of the year could be ‘specialist’ breweries. The way the market is going, having a point of difference that works can boost producers into public consciousness way above (and irrespective of) the size of their business. Take Bellfield – Scotland’s first exclusively gluten-free brewery. The end of last year saw the Edinburgh producers secure their first UK-wide listing, charting a rapid increase in scope that their planned bespoke brewhouse will be able to supply. If this comes online and more beers are added to the portfolio (of existing Pils and US IPA) then look for both co-founders to use their media backgrounds to truly make Bellfield known up and down the country.

 

 

Fierce Beer – You may well have heard of Fierce Beer, but if you haven’t then chances are 2017 is the year in which you will. They blew onto the scene last year in a way not seen for a while – since the first brew in May, ex-oilworker homebrewers Dave Grant and David McHardy ratcheted everything up almost immediately. Within three months they had secured investment to expand into a brewhouse in Dyce, created a core line-up of ten different beers and launched into London by taking over the Rake in Borough Market. One of the great things about the industry at the moment is that brewers can create ranges with peanut/raspberry/habanero and it is in no way a gimmick. Fierce by name, Fierce by nature – look out, 2017.

 

 

Fyne Ales – One nugget that slipped out unnoticed towards the end of last year was the fact that the champions of Argyll had started a programme of spontaneous fermentation. Having obtained seven French wine casks a very special beer was encased within and is apparently going to remain there for at least two years. But instead of adding Fyne Ales to the 2019 brewers to watch list, they probably deserve keeping tabs on much sooner than that – their barrel-ageing programme is set to reveal all kinds of treasures (if you like Imperial Stouts, for instance) and when coupled with the fact that 2017 is the fifteenth anniversary of their first full year of brewing, expect one of the best breweries in the UK to get even better.

 

 

Dead End Brew Machine – Speaking of Fyne Ales, their sponsorship of the 2012 IBD Scottish Homebrew Competition resulted in Zombier, a porter created by Jake Griffin and Chris Lewis. Both now have microbreweries of their own, and to be honest either could be in this list. Jake’s Up Front had an amazing year last year – I can only hope that Chris’s concern has a similarly breakout twelve months. From debuting a passion fruit IPA (Dead One) in March, Chris brewed at a series of different places with every single result being outstanding. Glasgow has seen a surge of brewing talent arrive over the last year or so, which is fantastic to see. If Chris gets more brewdays in the bank over the next few months, be sure and track down anything he comes up with.





ENGLAND/WALES

Harbour – Moving into England, we start with Harbour Brewing Company. This time last year Eddie Lofthouse and his team were brewing on a 10BBL kit and pondering a few changes. That resulted in a new 30BBL kit, a new canning line and a new head brewer in Stuart Howe. A year of consolidation is far from on the cards however as they are soon to rip out that canning line for a larger one (a sure sign that aluminium is back and here to stay) and are planning on building an entirely new warehouse to free space for an enlarged brewery. Their second expansion in two years will see Harbour replacing almost their entire core line-up and refreshing the packaging to boot. So no signs of slowing down in Cornwall…
 

 

Camden Town – It’s just over a year since AB-InBev wrote the biggest cheque to be seen in British brewing for quite a while – the around £85m to buy Camden Town Brewery. Since then the packaging has been tweaked, fellow subsumers Elysian flew over for a collab (their shared AB-InBev parentage not making this ‘did you know?’ blog post), and new beers were released. Oh, and a colossal new brewery constructed in Enfield. Come the spring, the facility will be open and from then on it will be fascinating to see where Camden Town (and their beers) end up, both figuratively and literally. Only time will tell – but a lot of eyes will be turned to North London in the meantime…

 

 

Elusive – Andy Parker was on this list last year, and he’s going on it again. Back then it was down to the strength of his collaborations and the prospect of the upcoming brewery build in Finchampstead. Now, it’s because his brewery is complete and he has started production. Like Chris Lewis, I’m not quite sure Andy knows just how brilliant he is as a brewer (even with the homebrewing awards) – although a glance at a few Golden Pints roundups from across the beer writing world would make that immediately obvious. Andy is now advertising for a part-time brewer to join the team, and with more new beers hitting the shelves than ever, I’m genuinely excited to see where the next year is going to take him.

 

 

Lines Brew Co – Moving into Wales, the sudden demise of Celt Experience under Tom Newman was a real shame – but thankfully he bounced back pretty quickly with a new brewery specialising in Farmhouse Ales and with no beer brewed more than once. All of these things make Lines Brew Co worth watching, and their base in Caerphilly will undoubtedly be home to all manner of fascinating experiments in brewing, ageing and harnessing of the mighty yeast. With beers already out, expect word to similarly escape in 2017 about this particular Welsh brewery – certainly if the standard of beers they brought to IndyMan back in October are anything to go by…

 

 

Cloudwater – Finally, we have Cloudwater. They were the number 1 English brewery to watch on this list last year, and (although an easy pick) certainly came through to justify it. I wasn’t going to include them for 2017 – they are off on that upward curve already – but a few days ago the announcement was made that they are ceasing cask production and will be focusing on keg and bottle/can, with cans then taking a higher percentage of their beer. This is going to be one of the stories of the year to follow, as evidenced by the staggering outpouring of beer blogs that resulted. Have a read of the best of them here, here and here and then make a mental note to check back a few months from now to see if Cloudwater’s decision was a positive or negative for the industry.



And the place you can check back is right here, around June/July when I’ll be revisiting all of these stories to see how each of the ten breweries are faring. Let me know in the comments below if there are any other breweries who will have breakout years in 2017 or will have stories to follow!

Craft Beer Rising Glasgow

A beer festival held in a marquee, hosted by a brewery, within the grounds of a larger brewery; Craft Beer Rising. This Russian doll of beer took place over the weekend at the Drygate facility in Glasgow, having moved north for the first time since its London inception. I ventured across from Waverly to Queen Street on the Friday to check out the trade day and then hopefully blunder into the public session that followed. Last Craft Beer Rising, at the Truman Brewery in East London, us freebooting ‘trade’ types were clinically ushered out in the interval,* so it was a welcome surprise when, as the Drygate trade session clock ticked down, rather than squawking ‘YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR BEER IN THREE…TWO…ONE’, a PA announcement suddenly yelped into life that those of us already there would be subsumed into the public session that was about to begin. Hoorah! The white exhibitors’ wristband I had slyly acquired to avoid being turfed out would not be needed, after all.

* But…but…I’m a beer blogger!! [sniff]

There was quite a strange atmosphere on the Friday at Craft Beer Rising – somewhat inevitably, maybe. The morning after the night before; Thursday’s vote on the Independence referendum still fresh in everyone’s minds. The trade session itself was particularly muted, brewers staring out from behind their palleted bars, or talking to a couple of people at a time, at most. For a blogger like myself, this was great, as I could buzz from one stall to the next, repeatedly asking questions, like the last wasp of summer. Brewers, being as amenable as they usually are, were only too happy (at least on the outside) to chat away, and in the process I learned a fair bit of fascinating future plans from several of them. All of it, naturally, off the record (such is life). However, let’s just say I had thought I’d seen in all in the world of beer labelling; so watch out in that regard.

Talking to a few of the beer drinkers who arrived for the public session – or ‘bluebanders’ as us white-banded types could have piously referred to them, the number one item of feedback they had about Craft Beer Rising was the cost. Twenty-odd pounds to get in (although a net fifteen, as that included a fivers’ worth of tokens) it sounded, to many, to be on the high side of average for a beer festival, even one appended by the word ‘craft’. Maybe that had combined with the post-indyref atmosphere to keep numbers down; the Friday evening session was as quiet a beerfest as I think I’ve ever seen (although it must be said the Saturday sessions apparently sold out). Still, that meant a better chance of sounding out some interesting beer; and so it proved.

Beer of the festival for me was Harbour’s 8.7% Chocolate and Vanilla Imperial Stout; a nigh-on perfect joining of these two most complementary of flavours for strong, dark beers. Right from the off, a wow beer. Not far behind that was Stewart’s Lemon Grass-hopper Saison, created on the Craft Beer Kitchen kit by a couple of competition winners, the blend of kaffir lime leaves, ginger and lemongrass again worked beautifully. In fact, such was the buzz around this one, don’t be surprised to see this beer upscaled to the big Stewart kit and released to a wider audience. Still on the ‘things in a saison’ trend, the collaboration between Williams Bros and Stillwater – Stravaigin (6.7%) – was another humdinger. Interestingly, I’d had this before, at the Edinburgh Beer Bloggers’ Conference, but with a few more months in the keg has made it much more vibrant, clean and zesty.

It was tough at this point to avoid the barrel-aged Even More Jesus being poured from an open bottle on the Siren bar, but I’d wanted to try Undercurrent again ever since managing to get a quick half at the Hanging Bat, many moons ago. It didn’t disappoint; the oatmeal pale ale was as great as I remembered. Once again, it reminded me of a grapefruit power bar, should such a thing exist. Finally, the fifth beer of five that really made the pages of my notebook tingle was another collab – Camden’s jaunt with Beavertown, One Hells of a Beaver. Sold underneath a sign proclaiming where ‘The Home of Hells’ was (as if you were in any doubt), this mashup of Gamma Ray and Camden Hells was really quite something. Proof, if any were required, that whatever and however you want to quantify it, ‘craft beer’ is still on the rise…



Thanks to the organisers of Craft Beer Rising for the trade ticket, and the staff at Drygate who had to put in extra shifts to get it all working. The atmosphere reduced somewhat towards the end of the night, unfortunately, as news filtered through as to what was occurring on George Square (past which those of us from Edinburgh would have to go to get the train). A real shame, but as the mood in the city was better at the weekend, hopefully that pervaded to the festival as well.

Best New Beers of 2013…Harbour Aji Limon IPA

Ajis2

The second week of December; time for the annual look back at the most memorable new British beers of the year! Every year in this introduction I write how the UK brewing scene is defying the recession and the taxman, and every year our brewers make it more true (even if both negatives are now easing slightly). Over the next six days, I’ll be listing our picks for the best new beers of 2013. As they are roughly in order of release, for the first selection we head all the way back to January, when a brewery from the far south of England travelled all the way up to Scotland, and brought with them an absolute classic…



Aji Limon IPA (6.8%)
Harbour Brewery, Bodmin, Cornwall
(cask/keg/bottle, limited release, January)

Favourite beer styles; usually they are set, if not in stone, then in something reasonably solid. You know what you like, after all, and when scanning a row of unfamiliar pump clips, mention of the word ‘porter’ or ‘hefeweizen’, or whatever, can often be the deciding factor. However, one of the joys of beer drinking – and drinking is fun, don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise – is discovering something unexpected. A chance half swiftly snatched on the way to somewhere else makes you re-think American pale ales. That bottle finally dug from the back of the cupboard turns the lights on to old ales. It’s great, that “Ooh, wow” moment.

Right at the start of the year, I had just exactly that, relating to my least favourite style of beer. Well, second-least, maybe (honey beers still lodge firmly at the foot of the ladder). The style in question is chilli beer. Hate them. Really, just a waste of time – brewers blending together (say) dark, roasted malts and then butchering them with Naga. Putting together a balanced pale and obliterating it with the Scovilles. I may have been unlucky up to now, but chilli beer, to me, equals unnecessary, roll around on the floor heat – like the horrendous Forstner Chili Hotbeer. Undrinkable. Pointless.

So, when Cornwall’s Harbour Brewing Company arrived in Edinburgh for a meet the brewer, toting a chilli beer – Aji Limon IPA – it was somewhere near the bottom of my ‘to do’ list. An Amarillo-hopped IPA aged in a Jack Daniels barrel with Aji chillies. Yet it was astonishing. So much more than ‘we’ll chuck it in this barrel with these chillies’ (often the ruin of many an ageing project). The sweetness of the bourbon and the fruitiness of the Aji’s were a revelation. Extremely rich, lots of mango, orangey from the Amarillo, the heat and chilliness appeared gently, building – no nuclear fireball here. One of the first chilli beers I’ve had that has true balance.

Even though January was such a long time ago, this beer still sticks in the memory – for the simple reason that it re-defined my opinion on brewing with chillies. Anything that leads you to reconsider a staunchly-held belief has to be a winner.



Rob at Hopzine managed to get hold of a bottle of Aji Limon – check out his YouTube review here. Join us tomorrow for our second best (in order of release) new British beer of 2013, which hails from the great brewing county of West Yorkshire – find out then what beer it is. Harbour went on to have a fantastic year – and although Aji Limon was extremely limited, Eddie assures me he had other chilli beers planned. On this evidence, they will definitely be ones to seek out…

England v Scotland – the live beer challenge

Versus7

Last week, for the first time in fourteen years, England and Scotland met on the football field. To commemorate the welcome return of the home international, we thought it only right to emulate the occasion in the only way we know how – by drinking beer (and in an orderly, pre-defined, yet rapid manner). Not quite crates of Fosters in Trafalgar Square, but four English beers pitched against the very best rivals from our home turf, north of the border.

It was down to me to select the Scottish beers, and BeerCast Paul was delegated to pick up four from England. As we both originally hail from south of the border, for balance we invited BeerCaster Stu along, a ukulele-playing Scotland fan from Zambia (no, really). As for the beers, there were no rules other than one for each of the vague styles of ‘golden’, ‘amber’, ‘IPA’ and ‘dark’ – with identities revealed at the end of each round.

Would the beer score emulate the football result…?

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First Half, Round 1 (Golden) Fyne Ales Jarl v Dark Star Sunburst

As Stu lays out a passable ‘Flower of Scotland’ on the ukulele, the night ahead seems even longer. Yet, thankfully, the beers arrive and the first matchup begins. Although they both look invitingly golden, each with a mere suggestion of haze, the flavours are very different. One is noticeably sharper, with more lemon and grapefruit, whereas the other is milder and peachy. Even if I hadn’t seen them poured, I’d have picked which was which in a moment, so it comes down to personal preference. As Stuart concludes “the peachy one is more mellow, it’s smoother – I prefer that to the bitter one”. As the voting comes in, England take the first round, with a 2-1 victory.

Eng 1 Sco 0 [Dark Star Sunburst]

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First Half, Round 2 (Amber) Luckie Scotoberfest v Harbour Amber

In real life, the football is turning into an old-fashioned ding-dong encounter, with goals flying in at each end – punctuated by throaty yelps from the room with the telly in. Pouring in the kitchen, I only saw about half the game, but the delivery man from Sitara Spice timed perfectly with the second round of beers, right before half-time. For England, Cornwall’s Harbour Brewery, facing off against the pride of Fife, Luckie Ales. I selected Scotoberfest as the German influence could have helped the Scotland team in case of a penalty shootout, but it wasn’t needed as a) friendlies don’t go to penalties, and b) the Harbour had unfortunately picked up an infection. So three votes for Luckie.

Eng 1 Sco 1 [Harbour Amber o.g.]

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Second Half, Round 1 (IPA) Stewart Radical Road v Wild Beer Madness IPA

With the half-time beer scores tied, curry finished, and England leading 2-1 in the actual football, both second halves started. It was certainly all to play for. Recovering from the disappointment of the infection-related amber round, the English team (i.e. Paul) fielded a hugely strong hand in Wild Beer Co’s Madness IPA. Up against it, Stewart Brewing’s Radical Road – two big-hitting, hop-forward IPA’s. It was hugely close – the Madness was fantastic, sweet, sticky and resinous, with a huge rich fruitiness to it. The Radical Road tasted like a liquidised Fruit Salad. It really could have gone either way, but in the end all three votes went to the same beer – the one from Stewart Brewing. Scotland take the lead (but not in the football).

Eng 1 Sco 2 [Stewart Radical Road]

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Second Half, Round 2 (Dark) Tempest Old Parochial v Camden/Odell Versus Baltic Porter

Could England come back to force a draw, as they took the lead in real life? The heavyweights were rolled out at the end – for Scotland, Kelso’s finest Tempest Brewing Co and their 10% barrel-aged Imperial Scotch Ale, Old Parochial (or ‘Old PArochil’ as I typed, the emotion clearly getting to me). For England, Camden’s 7% Baltic porter brewed with Odell – cries of ‘Ringer!’ silenced on the lips as the flavours of both came out. Stunning stuff, the latter was hugely roasty, with chocolate, coffee and a fabulous balance, whereas the former positively thrummed with soft, rounded whisky, caramel and umami. Again, voting was tight, but there were nods of acceptance as Scotland that prevailed once more, with a 2-1 vote.

Eng 1 Sco 3 [Tempest Old Parochial]

So, there you have it. Scotland lose the football 3-2, but win the beer match 3-1. Gordon Strachan and the boys can draw some comfort in that, I think. Rather amusingly, the national team’s next game is against Belgium – they couldn’t…could they?

The best IPA in Britain

AxeEdge

This is, in truth, a post I’ve wanted to write for a long while. A list – my list – of the best IPA’s in Britain. The problem is, every time I sit down and riffle through the selection of names, there are more to consider. Another one arrives seemingly every week. The demand for India Pale Ale on this, rightful, side of the Atlantic is growing at a pace comparable to the other side. Well, almost; the US craft beer scene is the standard-bearer for hop-forward IPA’s, and probably always will be. But, we’re catching up here in the UK, fittingly churning out more of our beloved style.

That s-word is one that leads to a whole host of blind alleys, each one containing a different beer expert, slowly pounding a cudgel against an open palm. This post is by no means intended to be a definitive list of IPA’s – heck, some might not even be true India Pale Ales. I’m no style expert. Nor do I enjoy constraining beers into rigid pigeonholes. However, I have used a few simple rules. These are beers I (or RateBeer/Beer Advocate) consider IPA’s – so therefore I have excluded Double/Imperials as a result. No Moor JJJ, Fyne Ales Superior IPA or Magic Rock Human Cannonball here.*

*That’s pretty much the start of the next list, I think…

Also, I’m going with fairly golden, reasonably standard IPA’s – so, likewise, there’s no place on this list for India Pale Ales that are black (Hardknott Code Black), red (Brodies Hackney Red) or those that have other grains in (Tempest RyePA) or unusual adjuncts (Kernel Suke Quto Coffee IPA). Speaking of the Bermondsey powerhouse, to stop a brewery having too many hits in the list, I’ve also taken the hard, hard step of only considering each brewery once. This prevents over-Kernalisation (something to be welcomed, on any other day).

Originally, I was just going for ten – but came up with so many alternatives I broadened the scope to twenty. In truth, I could probably have piled in even more. You may notice that the list reflects a certain style of IPA – feel free to comment on that if you’re a fan of Deuchars IPA or Sam Smith’s India Ale. I go for strong, hoppy, fresh-tasting IPA’s that make my tastebuds tingle. This list reflects that. Please feel free to disagree in the comments, or (as is inevitable) mention any that I have forgotten or neglected to include. Cheers!

 

RajIPA20. Tryst Raj IPA (5.5%)
From one of Scotland’s most under-rated brewers; one of Scotland’s most under-rated beers. When it came out around five years ago, Raj IPA announced a step change for John McGarva – until that point, session ales were his thing, either dark or light. This was his first beefy number, and on cask it still has the power to surprise, even today. Alongside the lemon and orange flavours, there’s more than a hint of earthy backbone about it – on cask, there are few IPA’s from north of the border that can match it.

 

 

 

MarbleLagonda19. Marble Lagonda (5.0%)
Here we have the first application of ‘the Kernel rule’ – with Marble’s Lagonda IPA. The Manchester concern have long dispensed golden hop bombs to the lucky locals of the Marble Arch – and there are few better beers than Lagonda to enjoy as the glowing sun filters through the windows there. Utility IPA could also be on this list, quite frankly – and if I was allowing adjuncts, Earl Grey IPA would be too (very near the top). As it is, one brewer, one IPA, and we can more than make do with the brilliant Lagonda.

 

 

 

WilliamsJoker18. Williams Brothers Joker (5.0%)
Joker is in this list for one simple reason – I was reminded recently just how good it can be. Having drunk more than my fair share of Williams Brothers’ IPA in the past, it had been registered, logged and mentally filed away. A great beer – also under-rated in Scotland – one of the best ‘no-thinkum’ beers you can stack the fridge with. However, a visit to Leith’s Vintage the other week – a charbar* part-owned by the Alloa brewers, and a pint of Joker brought back all those memories – and more. In short, it was superb. You can fly through this, nuzzled by citrus as you go.

*charbar being the modern, charcuterie-forward version of a gastropub, of course.

 

 

 

RadicalRoad17. Stewart Radical Road (6.4%)
Loanhead’s Stewart Brewing have been quietly upping the ante over the last year or so – beers such as No3 and Copper Cascade making way for black IPA’s, Belgian-style tripels, and the beer that arguably started it all – Radical Road. Brewed as a one-off, it has swiftly moved into the ‘regular’ folder for Stewart – based largely on public opinion. As their new brewery is taking shape, complete with public brewkit and growler station, their honeysuckle-edged Radical Road definitely seems to have marked the crossover point.

 

 

 

Cannonball16. Magic Rock Cannonball (7.4%)
Huddersfield’s finest were one of the easiest to include on this list – as a series of beers, their ‘Cannonball run’ has blasted into the hearts of hop-loving drinkers all over the UK. The original may have been overtaken on the geekblogs by the walloping double IPA Human Cannonball (itself surpassed by the upcoming Un-human Cannonball), but the debut India Pale Ale is one of their very best beers (and talking about Magic Rock, that’s not an easy assumption to make). But an abundance of tropical fruit and resin – what’s not to like?

 

 

 

HoxtonSpecial15. Brodies Hoxton Special IPA (6.6%)
San Diego or Portland may consider themselves IPA towns, but London is the place for our favoured beer style. Brodies are one of the city’s most prolific brewers, churning our dozens of different cask beers from their base in Walthamstow. A full-on blast of California sunshine, Hoxton Special sings out of the glass with every mouthful. Passion fruit, grapefruit, papaya and mango – as good as any hop-forward C-bomb from the Pacific Coast.

 

 

 

MeantimeIPA14. Meantime India Pale Ale (7.5%)
Staying in London for our next pick, Meantime claim to be ‘Britain’s only producer of authentic India Pale Ale’. Whether that means they are the only ones to pack Goldings and Fuggles into a beer like this, or they send it to bottle shops via Kolkata, I don’t know. But it’s a great beer – and a fantastic IPA. Greenwich’s finest have put out a lot of different lines since their India Pale Ale came out, but few better.

 

 

 

LotusIPA13. Ilkley Lotus IPA (5.6%)
Another cracker from another seriously under-rated brewery. Ilkley hit the jackpot with Lotus IPA – a fantastic mix of Cascade and Summit hops – giving a sweet, pineapple and peach flavour to the beer. Lotus is a prime example of a cask-led, session-strength brewery turning everything up, just a little, and really coming good. Of all the IPA’s on this list, Lotus is the one that would catch up with you the quickest, being supremely quaffable at 5.6%.

 

 

 

HarbourIPA12. Harbour IPA (5.0%)
Cornwall – pounding surf, pasties and fishermen with impenetrable, fixed-distance stares. As they stand, rigid, on the decks of surging trawlers, maybe they are thinking about the one that got away. Or, they could be rapt with attention on the beers they’ll be knocking back once they beach the boat and stumble up the shingle. Harbour IPA – again, since enveloped by doubles of different hoppage, is a cracking beer in cask or bottle.

 

 

 

SummitIPA11. Acorn Summit IPA (5.0%)
Barnsley’s finest knocked one halfway to Leeds with their single-hop Summit IPA, brewed (as far as I can tell) just the once. I was trying to avoid hard to find, unusual beers such as this (otherwise Rooster’s Serlo de Burgh would have to be in this list), but had to make an exception for Acorn’s Summit. I only ever saw this once, in Edinburgh on cask, and it was fabulous. Like standing on a Caribbean beach at sunrise (only with rain battering on the windows).

 

 

 

SWBDiablo10. Summer Wine Diablo (6.0%)
There can’t be a harder working pair in British brewing than Andy and James from Holmfirth’s Summer Wine. They seem to be permanently at work, double brewdays throughout the week, travelling to all ends of the country (even Scotland) for their craft. Hard work only gets you so far, of course, but the SWB guys really back it up with their creative take on modern styles. As pretentious as that sentence sounds, it’s absolutely true of Diablo – the first Summer Wine beer I ever had. I can still remember reeling in Mr Foleys, Leeds, from the grapefruit-laced right hook it delivered.

 

 

 

SouthvilleHop9. Bristol Beer Factory Southville Hop (6.5%)
Modern, hop-forward IPA’s are all about the fruit flavours, and how they interplay with the other components of the beer. The sweeter malt notes, or the punchy, bitter resin. Southville Hop (to my taste buds, at least) combines two of the most complementary of those fruit flavours – pineapple and grapefruit. Yes, it sounds like a Lilt advert – but if any brewer in the UK would be advised to release an Alco-Lilt, it would be BBF. Southville Hop is a stunner, and deservedly in the top 10 British IPA’s.

 

 

 

69IPA8. Lovibonds 69 IPA (6.9%)
Speaking of two complementary elements, the next IPA on the list features the easy marriage of Centennial and Columbus. Lovibonds 69 IPA blends the two C-hops almost perfectly, and gives a beer that would not be out of place in any Pacific hop-den – which was pretty much the intention. Lovibonds’ beers are as outspoken as their creator, Jeff Rosenmeier; 69 IPA walks the walk, and strides boldly into the resinous territory of the puckering tastebud. A revelation.

 

 

 

Halcyon7. Thornbridge Halcyon (7.7%)
So, back to the ‘Kernel rule’ and representing Thornbridge – who, had to be in this list somewhere – is the jaw-trembling Halcyon. Jaipur probably has more fans – or, it certainly used to – but Halcyon is simply stunning. It may verge into the double IPA category, but when a beer is this good, styles go out of the window (as do morning meetings the next day). Prepare that shaky-sounding phone call to the boss, and crack open another.

 

 

 

BraveNewWorld6. Tempest Brave New World (7.0%)
With India Pale Ales, I get the impression that some are made by breweries because they feel obliged – the kind of ‘oh, well, people like them so we should put one out’ mentality. Without exception, those kinds of beers become middling, and unbalanced. It’s almost as if that attitude becomes reflected in the final beer. Thankfully, there are IPA’s where you drink them and think ‘You know what? I bet this beer is the first thing this brewery wanted to make’ – Brave New World is just such a beer – I’ll wager any amount you care to mention that it’s the favourite beer of the guys in Kelso. It certainly shows in the final product.

 

 

 

GreenDevil5. Oakham Green Devil (6.0%)
Peterborough’s Oakham produce some spellbinding golden, hoppy cask beer – such as the (almost) peerless Oakham Citra. The cheerfully menacing scaly hop peers out from that pump clip, just as his horned counterpart does for Oakham Green Devil. This is one of those beers that if you ever see it on at a pub, it’s time to count the blessings and order it. Doesn’t matter what else is there – dance with that green devil and forget everything else. Without doubt, one of the best beers in the UK.

 

 

 

AKA4. Cromarty AKA IPA (6.7%)
From here on in, these beers are pretty much interchangeable depending on which I have sampled the most recently. Cromarty AKA is (in my opinion) the best IPA in Scotland, and getting on the way to taking over the whole country. Made by the most charmingly affable brewer you could ever hope to meet, in a brewery that looks out over the wind-churned whitecaps of the Cromarty Firth, AKA is the real deal. It shows exactly what the modern IPA should be about – that blend of citrus and resin on the flavour is pretty much as good as it gets. If you haven’t heard of this beer yet, you will – it’ll make Craig Middleton a household name in brewing circles.

 

 

 

GreatEastern3. Redchurch Great Eastern India Pale Ale (7.4%)
Drinking beer is (amongst other things) about discovery. Hearing about new breweries, stumbling across new pubs, and trying new beers. I remember trying Redchurch’s Great Eastern IPA for the first time, in the Holyrood 9A in Edinburgh. It reminded me of a distilled sweet shop – honeysuckle, pear drop, pithy orange zest. For such a new brewery, it’s a quite astonishing achievement. London is awash with new breweries – which is great, of course – but as the other capital’s legion of drinkers nose around, looking out these new drinking options, they need only head to Hackney for the very best.

 

 

 

KernelIPACitra2. Kernel India Pale Ale Citra (7.2%)
Well, Hackney and Bermondsey. The Kernel are unstoppable – since moving into larger premises they have continued almost unabated. The freedom they have from brewing whatever they want, with whatever hops or malt they can get hold of, is infectious. People in the food industry talk about seasonality. The Kernel do this with brewing – small batch, no fuss, get it out fresh, simple and effective. They’re the brewery BrewDog wish they could be, but never will. Evin’s original IPA Citra is still one of the beers that truly affirmed my love of modern, well-made British beer. Some bigger IPA’s have Citra piled in to such an extent, it gives a leading edge of astringency – but not this classic.

 

 

 

axe_edge2709101. Buxton Axe Edge (6.8%)
So, here we are. The best India Pale Ale in Britain comes from the Peak District – Buxton’s Axe Edge. This, to me, could be the perfect beer. High strength, to give the alcohol body, but not monstrously high that you can’t have at least a few. The mix of Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin and Citra that point to every part of the hop compass – sweet orange, vinous lime, juicy pineapple. For me, it’s mango that always seems to come out first (the most moreish of all hop flavours), building to a rich, sweet pine and caramel finish. It’s sublime, and works on cask, keg or bottle. Soon to be brewed by the newly arriving Colin Stronge – no pressure, Col – it remains the IPA by which all others should be judged. Oh, and I know the label says Double IPA, but I couldn’t put this list together without Axe Edge, pride of place at the very top.

UPDATE
Denis at Buxton confirmed to me this morning that Axe Edge has not been referred to as a ‘Double IPA’ for a while – they class it as a regular India Pale Ale…

Meeting the Harbour Brewing Company

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For those who know Cornwall, it must seem like something of an oxymoron. Land-locked Bodmin – about as far from the sea as you can get in that part of the county* – being home to the Harbour Brewing Company. The reason for their location is water-related, it turns out, as the overwhelming need for an ideal water source took precedence. So, it was to be inland for Eddie Lofthouse and Rhys Powell, although their idea for Harbour Brewing Co originated in a Padstow pub – right on the seafront, overlooking the fishing boats.

*i.e. about five miles



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We caught up with Eddie and Rhys at Edinburgh’s Hanging Bat, on the occasion of their first birthday as a brewery. To celebrate, they left the cake and balloons at home and decided on a thousand-mile round trip to Scotland (which sets a dangerous precedent for future anniversaries). Looking vaguely familiar as we spoke, it turns out I went to school with Eddie, twenty years ago in Lancashire (and roughly halfway between Cornwall and Scotland). Even in the small world of brewing, there are still moments like that, to surprise you.



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Eddie told me that Cornwall is dominated by bitter. St Austell, Sharp’s and co have the middle-ground sewn up. So, Harbour are trying something different – going for the ‘craft’ market, although it’s a word he uses only through lack of an alternative. As such, most of their beer leaves the home county and heads to the rest of the UK – and beyond, as within their first year of operation they are already exporting to destinations as far away as Mexico (until Doom Bar arrives there as well). Eddie seemed accepting of this, acknowledging that to small Cornish pubs, ‘craft’ comes down the list when concentrating on ‘costs’.



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Rhys and Eddie took the group through six of their beers – although plenty more were on at the Bat as well – beginning with their Citra-packed Pale Ale no1 (on occasion augmented with the hard to find hop bought from homebrew shops), through the excellent American Rye and Blackcurrant Porter, to this beer – AJA Limon IPA. Thinking lemon, this proved to be very wrong, as the beer is an Amarillo-hopped IPA aged in a Jack Daniels barrel, with Aji chillies. Acquired on the tip-off of a Michelin-starred chef, the chilli is sweet, fruity and hot – and this mirrors in the beer. Rather than just blasting out the NagaDeath so many other chilli beers do, it proves there’s more than one dimension available.



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Although a fair proportion of the beers Rhys makes are pale – he also turns his (Heriot-Watt trained) hands to darker numbers. The 8.6% Vanilla Imperial Stout looked like a menace, but was really soft, smooth and creamy. Brewed with cocoa nibs and then again aged in Jack Daniels casks (except this time with 90 vanilla pods), drinking it was liked eating the entire top layer of a box of chocolates, and then moving on to the bottom. Sweet, rich, milk choc – a dessert beer, no question. The whisky-barrel ageing (brief at only three months) added merely a slight hum in the background – they have other versions that are still in there, gaining a different mix of flavours.



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It was great to chat to Eddie and Rhys – still clearly in the stages of experimentation that infect all brewery start-ups, before the orders pile up and business takes over. That reflected in their final beer – the Iced Pale Ale. A blend of 7% Pale Ale and Pumpkin beer, it was then frozen to -28°C. The resulting beer comes out at around 20% (it hasn’t been fully tested, so can’t be sold – merely ‘handed out’ as ‘tasters’). Eight barrels of beer were frozen down in this way, resulting in 15 litres of Iced Pale Ale. They can’t sell it, so what’s the point? Well, it interested them. Brewing should be all about this ethos – doing things to see what happens.

Technically, they could get the process down to -75°C, but are just content to run these small-batch, special releases for events. As the other half of Eddie’s business is an ice-cream factory, it makes sense to use what they have to see where brewing can go. It turns out that the beer is not what I was expecting – the pumpkin flavours come over more than the alcohol, and yet, it’s not sweet – more heathery, bergamot-esque, and herbal. Fascinating stuff. Like all of Habour’s beers, it shows huge promise – as does the fact that Eddie and Rhys are willing to drive over a thousand miles to show them off…



Harbour Brewing Co website