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    Thursday, 19 July 2007

    Ten Happening UK Breweries - Part 1

    I'm not in a position to try every single beer brewed in the UK, and neither would I want to be, but I've had enough to be able to form an opinion as to which breweries are consistently brewing quality stuff. Over the next couple of days I will talk about what I believe are the ten happening breweries in the UK at the moment. Some of them are pushing the boat out and brewing, what are for these isles, extreme beers, while others are just doing the good things very, very well. By no means have I tried all their products, but those that I have, and talking to others about those that they have, leads me to have great faith in my list. I am presenting my list alphabetically; five today, and five tomorrow. You will doubtless disagree with some of my ten, but hopefully you will agree with some of them. I would be interested to hear what you think.

    Acorn of South Yorkshire has been in production since 2003. It is a 40 barrel plant, and is a favourite with brewers in the Barnsley area, and of course, further afield. Acorn were awarded a silver award in last year's Champion Bitter section at GBBF with Barnsley Bitter. It's beers like this which Acorn do so well. Standard old fashioned English bitters are their forte, although their Gorlovka Imperial Stout is a beer to be reckoned with. I don't think Acorn will ever try to match the American style hoppy beers which other brewers are attempting at the moment. In fact I think their maltier beers are their best products, and seem to be what Yorkshire drinkers on the whole prefer, so I think they will, and indeed should stick to what they are doing so well.

    Alehouse is a brew pub in St Albans (their website is not up to much at the moment). It is based in The Farmers Boy which used to be the home of Verulam. Alehouse know their hops. The beers I have tried have all been very hoppy, even their Robust Porter, and they've all had a great malt backbone. A fair few of their beers tell you which hop they use in the beer's name, which I personally like as it educates you to the different flavours of each individual hop. Most of the beers are mid strength, although the 9.6% monster Rick's End Game Technique is a thing of beauty. You don't see their beers in pubs very often, but I am lucky that they are popular at my local Beer Festival.

    BrewDog of Fraserburgh, Scotland, has already been mentioned in detail in my report of Derby Beer Festival. They commenced brewing only three months ago, but have already built up a huge reputation with discerning beer drinkers. The two beers I had at Derby were the only ones I have tried so far (although I know there will be some of their range available at a RateBeer gathering I am attending next month), and they were both real beauties. BrewDog like big beers with big flavours. They describe themselves as "two guys trying to make the best beer we can", and I think they are doing a pretty good job. Punk IPA is one of the hoppiest British beers I've had and it can real carry off the hops. It's so very drinkable and moreish, and at 6% packs just the right punch. Riptide is their 8% stout which also goes down a treat. They have also produced a stronger stout which has been matured in various whisky barrels, and also produce a pretty decent lager. This brewery can only go from strength to strength.

    Buntingford may be a surprising choice for many, but this is one of the most consistent breweries around at the moment. Most of their beers are on the hoppy side, but they are generally delicate, well balanced, easily drinkable hoppy beers rather than bursting with flavour. Buntingford has been brewing since 2001 and is based in Royston, Hertfordshire. They have brewed quite a large range of beers over those years, and continue to brew specials in addition to their stock beers Highwayman IPA and Challenger. You may well have flagged their beers at festivals in favour of more decorated breweries but next time you see one try it, hopefully you won't be disappointed. Make sure also that you read the brewer's blog.

    Crouch Vale needs no introduction. This Essex brewer has won Champion Beer Of Britain in each of the last two years with Brewers Gold. This may not be the best beer in Britain but it is good enough, tasty enough and palatable enough to win such an accolade. This year is Crouch Vales 26th in operation, and despite their success they are still a tradition brewery relying on quality products. They brew decent milds and porters as well as Golden Ales for which they are famous. At one point Brewers Gold Extra, the 5% big brother of their flagship beer was ranked in the top 50 beers in the world on RateBeer, it is still in the top 100. All of their beers are worth having wherever possible.

    So that's the first five, and we're only at the letter C so plenty of choice left to fill the next five. Tune in tomorrow folks.

    1 comment:

    Boak said...

    I like the approach of flagging up exciting and consistent breweries - very useful in the beer festival season when you're wondering what to go for!

    Of these five, I only really know Crouch Vale well, and I agree with your comments.