Britain's Five Most Exciting New Breweries
These new breweries are successfully finding new ways to stand out from the crowd.
Craft beer is well-established in the UK. Breweries such as Thornbridge, Brewdog and Vocation, to name but three, are available in supermarkets up and down the country, and it’s a rare pub that doesn’t have something craft or craft-influenced on the bar. This all means that it’s extremely hard to break into the market now: there’s so much competition.
Nonetheless, there are still plenty of good new breweries opening, and the level of competition is forcing them to find exciting new ways of standing out from the crowd - whether that be in terms of the beer they make, or their approach to the society in which they exist. Here are five of the best:
Craft beer once treated lager with a disdain bordering on contempt, but it couldn’t be more popular right now. From Braybrook’s Keller Lager to Lost and Grounded’s Keller Pils, British craft-beer is suffused with top-quality bottom-fermented beers.
Amongst them is Donzoko’s Northern Helles (the Northern bit because it’s brewed in Hartlepool), which has recently impressed educated judges. A touch more delicate and hop-forward than traditional Bavarian examples, it’s a very tasty, drinkable beer - the sort of thing that will win favor with beer obsessives and ordinary punters alike.
Owner Reece Hugill spent a year studying in Germany, which gave him a hankering for Helles. Having got fed up with paying through the nose for imported versions, he decided to make his own, using other breweries’ equipment and giving the beer a lengthy fermentation in his own space. It’s a commitment to doing things the right way that is paying off.
He doesn’t just make Helles, though. He also makes a session IPA, which hits the all hoppy high-notes you’d expect.
Having guided Beavertown to the promised land, Jenn Merrick quit as head brewer at the beginning of 2017 to focus on a project close to her heart. She wants to create a brewery in Newham, not far from her home, that will connect with local people in a way that most craft breweries don’t. Craft beer in London is a largely middle-class game, often dislocated from its immediate surroundings, and Merrick wants to change that.
Thus far London’s many layers of bureaucracy have held up her plans for a brewery and taproom on a site above the new Crossrail underground line in North Woolwich, but she’s been spending her time focusing on getting things right and brewing some interesting collaborations. The most recent saw him visit Brixton Brewery for an International Women’s Day brew that aimed to shine the light on violent crime in the capital.
This year’s International Woman’s Day was the biggest that British brewing has seen: dozens of collaboration brews and celebratory events took place across the UK, demonstrating that an industry that has struggled with sexism and its approach to women for many years is on the road to a different future. Times are clearly changing: many of the country’s most visible brewers are women, from Jaega Wise at Wild Card to Fuller’s head brewer Georgina Young.
There’s only one brewery, though, which is run entirely by women and committed to championing women in craft beer. Mothership brews out of Ubrew in Bermondsey, making beers on a seasonal basis. Founder Janes Barnes was a winemaker until she tempted by the creativity possible in the world of brewing: now her standard line-up includes an IPA, a Brut Pale Ale, and a Stout made with Cardamom and Rose. Look out for them.
Salt Beer Factory
Colin Stronge is one of the UK’s most accomplished brewers, having worked at Black Isle, Marble, Buxton, and Northern Monk. Now he’s in charge at Salt, a £1.7m development in Saltaire, Yorkshire, which was opened by parent company Ossett Brewery at the back end of last year. (There will soon be two bars operating under the Salt name, too, in Leeds.)
The focus is on IPAs - not an original plan but, given Stronge’s background, quite a sensible one. One of the most impressive aspects of the brewery is the taproom, which has been placed slap-bang in the middle of the building, a grade-II listed Victorian tramshed.
Belgian monks are famous for their connections with the brewing industry; British monks, less so. Maybe that’s about to change. Last summer Tynt Meadow, the UK’s first Trappist ale, was launched. So far, it’s had a great reception.
It’s brewed by Cistercian monks at Mount Saint Bernard monastery in Leicestershire, with Father Michael in charge of brewing (The name comes from a nearby field, where the monastery was originally founded). It’s rich and full-bodied, with plenty of dried fruit and banana character. It’s clearly a Trappist ale, albeit one brewed in England rather than Belgium.