Tag Archives: Lovibonds

Lovibonds Brewery on the brink

Establishing, operating and – with time – growing a brewery is a tough task, with unforeseen problems rearing their head at will. Irrespective of whether the recent boom in craft beer is sustainable or not, the everyday pressures of running a small business can leave some producers skating on thin ice through no fault of their own. As us consumers get caught up in the excitement of new sours and barrel-aged releases, the men and women who work all hours to create these beers sometimes have the rug pulled from under them. And that is exactly what could be about to happen to one producer in the south-east.

Lovibonds – a brewery with a hundred-year association with Henley on Thames – is set to close through one of the more unexpected threats to breweries – conversion into flats. Yes, the problem that has taken account of hundreds of pubs the length and breadth of the country isn’t often one faced by the people who supply those pubs with beer, but Jeff Rosenmeier and his team are facing the prospect of being evicted by their landlord, who has lodged a planning application to turn the Lovibonds tasting room and barrel cellar into seven luxury flats.

So rather than the shakeout of the modern craft brewing industry, or some lawyered-up trademark dispute crunching through the funds, all of a sudden one of the best small craft breweries in the UK looks set to be punted out of their buildings for the benefit of a landlord and just over half a dozen people. Even though it’s a long way from Scotland, I unashamedly love what Jeff and the guys do (I visited him in March 2015 for a piece I put together for BrewDog), and it would be a crying shame for the brewery to be kicked to the curb in this way.

Timing is never good for a notification such as this to appear on your doormat, but Lovibonds for years brewed at Luxters five miles from their taproom, transporting everything between the two sites. Now with a set up closer to home and the recent milestone of their 600th brew (the same as their 1st; Henley Gold) it’s a massive kick in the balls for Jeff to have to overcome. Urban renewal – appearing exactly when and where you don’t want it. But, do Lovibonds have a way out of this?

That parallel to pub conversions is more than an easy analogy as, like many of them, Lovibonds is the centre of the community in Henley. A town best known for its Regatta has much more going for it and many of that emanates (or is focused around) the brewery taproom. With talks, tastings, live music, charity events and even the recent fresh hop brewday, Lovibonds deserves better than being pushed aside for a few flats. It’s a sorry state of affairs, but let’s hop Lovibonds can hold on to the community hub aspect that sometimes stays the hands of developers looking at old pubs.

If you’d like to oppose the planning application, it can be done so by visiting this page and leaving a comment. Local fans of the brewery have set up a Save Lovibonds FaceBook group, too. Let’s hope the needs of the many in the town are recognised and Lovibonds can stay in existence, keeping the developers at bay.

The best IPA in Britain


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.

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…

Lagerboy Speaks – Lovibonds Lagerboy!

For five years, Lagerboy has been charging around, tasked with seeking out the pale and the fizzy. Slowing briefly to record his garbled thoughts, the restlessness soon kicks in and he moves on, to another keg-heavy bar or obscurely stocked bottle shop. CO2 powered, Lagerboy can detect the faint tingle of Saaz, downwind, from a hundred yards. He even spends three weeks a year in a cave, becoming one with the concept he worships. And now, all these years later, he has found his holy grail – Lovibonds Lagerboy.

It’s the beery equivalent of a knighthood. For services to carbonation. To bounce into his local keg-forward lagertorium and see his own name on a pump clip – well, it doesn’t get any better. It’s the ultimate honour. Jeff and the team at Lovibonds are clearly enormous fans of Lagerboy’s musings, his evangelical zeal for ‘cold and gold’. This is his reward. To be honest, what the beer tastes like is secondary – inspiring one of the UK’s most progressive breweries to design, produce and market a beer specifically for him is enough, quite frankly.

As it happens, Lagerboy couldn’t be more pleased. Hazy and golden, the beer reminded him of the dappled late afternoon sun, gently lighting a field of two-row barley. Soft, grassy on the nose – like the urge to rest awhile between the quietly rustling stalks – it sashays across the palate. Akin to a German unfiltered lager, a style which often reduces Lagerboy to tears, the softness yields to a mildly peppery bitterness. A joy. A triumph. To have inspired such a masterpiece – surely, the culmination of a life’s work.

The BeerCast has since established any similarities in name between Lovibonds Lagerboy and this poorly-written column are coincidental

Two from Lovibonds

At the start of the year we predicted big things for a few UK brewers in 2012. Some were experienced players looking to make the next step – others complete beginners starting out. The new boys aside, we’d already sampled plenty of beers from the other producers – so can feel fairly confident in our predictions. One brewer we’ve never tried, however, are (or rather were) Henley’s Lovibonds. Having recently got hold of two bottles from a retailer in London, it was time to put them to the test – and see if our enthusiasm was well-founded…

Lovibonds Henley Dark
Paying homage to London porters of old, Henley Dark contains seven different malts – including one smoked with beech wood from the Chiltern hills. Coming in at 4.8% and 40IBU’s it actually looks like a Coke float – ruby red and highly effervescent. The aroma is fabulous – smoky chocolate, with fruit in there as well. Chocolate on the palate, it’s quite bitter and prickly – with noticeable smoke on the aftertaste. I wasn’t expecting that at all – it really brings a nice sub-flavour to the beer.

Lovibonds 69IPA
Part of the ‘new generation of IPAs’, 69 was produced using the Hopinator – which is either a turbo-powered dry hopping machine, or the best Gladiators name ever. Lovibonds founder and head brewer Jeff Rosenmeier hails from across the pond, so naturally wants to pound hops into everything, given the opportunity. 69IPA is full of those delicious piney, citric hop aromas that modern beer fans go all gooey over. Tropical on the taste, with more pine and a touch of alcohol – it’s completely wonderful, and so drinkable. One of the best British IPA’s I’ve ever tasted.

We’ll hopefully be getting more Lovibonds beers in the near future – so stay tuned for our reviews. Rumours are they’ll be appearing in Scotland with increased regularity…

Lovibonds website

Breweries to watch out for in 2012…

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…

Luckie Ales
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.

Stewart Brewing
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.


Summer Wine
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.

Tyne Bank
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?