The UK is unusual in the world of beer for having had not one but two ale revolutions in the past 40 years. First there was the saving of cask-conditioned or ‘real’ ale by CAMRA and now there is the re-discovery and revival of far older styles from Britain and the rest of the world by a post-CAMRA generation.
Here are a few tasters.
Of the city’s 80 breweries, The Kernel is the one that brewers, quaffers and geeks alike praise as much for their ethics as their impeccable brewing prowess. For me their best work is in revivalist beers like East India Porter (around 6% ABV), a dark dry brown ale chock full of burnt grain but without taking your palate on an assault course.
With more breweries per head than any city in Britain, and a clutch of fearless brewers unafraid to try new things, Bristol is not far from claiming the prize of being the UK’s premier city of beer. One of the largest, Moor Beer stays loyal to cask ale but often leaves it unfiltered, while also creating for the first time in Britain live beers in a can, with pale ales like Nor’Hop (4.1%).
With Greater Manchester boasting almost as many breweries as Greater London nowadays, choosing one representative is hard but for effervescent confidence and a talent to match, Cloudwater takes some beating. In the modern craft beer tradition it is their numerous pale ales that get the most attention – try their IPA in summer (6.8%) or winter (7.2%) version to get the drift
Newport-based Tiny Rebel staggers a line between real and craft by creating beers made tasty by excellent recipes then adapting them to formats that best suit their qualities. Brews like smoky sweet oatmeal stout Dirty Stop Out (5%) are sometimes found side by side in keg and cask formats at the Urban Tap House, their pub opposite the main gate to Cardiff Arms Park.
Associating the Traquair House brewery and its Ale (7.4%) with Edinburgh salutes its quintessential Scottishness though you will more likely find a bottle elsewhere. In 1966, this authentic recreation of a deep, dark ‘wee heavy’ or ‘Scotch Ale’ heralded the recreation, in the out-buildings of a 12th century country house brewery that will be the only one in Britain to turn 50 this decade.
More information about beer can be found in World Atlas of Beer by Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont