By Leigh Linley, http://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com
2011 has been a great year for Real Ale in the UK, with many microbreweries already having to make plans for upscaling operations within 12 months of opening. Through brewing innovative and quality beers, interacting with drinkers via social media, hosting ‘Meet the Brewer’ evenings up and down the country and even collaborating between themselves, the Independent UK Brewing Scene has seemed incredibly fertile this year. Here's a run-down of some of the newer breweries that I think have really progressed in 2011.
By simply packing as much flavour as possible into their ales, Head Brewer James Kemp has ensured that Buxton’s beers have become a firm favourite since their recent inception. Simple branding and recipes have served them well, and by letting the beers do the talking, Buxton have proved that you don’t need to be over-the-top to get people’s attention. Their Traditional –sounding beers, all named after local landmarks, hide modern sensibilities. Try Axe Edge for an intense, US-inspired Double IPA, or Moor Top for a light, super-refreshing single-hopped Blonde Ale.
The Kernel Brewery
This London-based outfit are currently riding high on being named runner-up by The Observer Food Monthly in the ‘Best Producer’ award; no mean feat for a microbrewer these days. Part of the fertile Maltby Street Food Producers, The Kernel has already garnered a reputation for an eclectic range of unfiltered, unpasteurised beers full of flavour and aroma. An array of old recipes such as London Porter and Export Stout sitting side-by-side with experimentations and one-off Pales and IPA’s mean that you never quite know what you’ll get if you pay a visit to The Kernel.
Magic Rock are going from strength to strength, burning midnight oil to make sure customers get as much of the likes of Rapture (Red Hop Ale) and Dark Arts (Stout) as they can humanly brew. Magic Rock have just finished brewing RockStar – a US Brown Ale in collaboration with Dark Star Brewing, one of the UK’s most well-respected breweries. One of the most talked-about breweries in the UK at the moment? I think so.
From his Cumbria base, Dave Bailey and his gang brew beers that are big, bold and afraid to pull no punches. The fact that their latest beer, Vitesse Noir, is, in their own words – “Triple Imperial Vanilla Mocha Stout” should give you some idea of how Hardknott want stamp their own personality on the UK scene. A staunch supporter of enjoying beer with food, Hardknott have recently expanded production – and I am sure this won’t be the last time they will have to do so.
One of Scotland’s best-kept-secrets, Black Isle are exporting their wares to Italy, Finland and Sweden and more, proving that good beer knows no boundaries. 100% Organic, they’ve just been joined by Colin Stronge, formerly the head brewer at Manchester’s famous Marble Brewery. The future looks very, very bright for Black Isle and - brewing the quality of beer that they do -so it should.
This year, Somerset-based Moor set out on a mission to prove to drinkers that unfined beer still tastes good, and teamed up with Nicholson’s Pubs to trial unfined versions of their popular beers. The experiment was a success, and just shows the passion that Moor have for their beer. Moor’s fantastic JJJ IPA and Old Freddy Walker are already UK classics.
Much like Brodie’s, SummerWine saw expansion in 2011, setting up their own online operation in order to get their beers out of Yorkshire and across the UK. Add to that new beers such as the strong, dark Cohort, and the popular Kahuna Pale, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Those who know SummerWine know that they don’t slow down, and I’m sure 2012 will see further expansion.
Incepted in 2008, Brodies have gone from strength to strength since. 2011 saw their beers finally leave London on a regular basis, letting us all get our hands on such tasty beers as Amarilla and Hackney Red IPA. There’s no airs and graces at Brodie’s – just beer that’s full of flavour and brewed with skill.
It’s difficult to believe that it’s only been 12 months since Macclesfield’s RedWillow emerged onto the scene. Toby McKenzie’s beers have already picked up a handful of awards, and are regular fixtures in pubs in the north of England, selling out in days. Ageless Double IPA was, in my opinion, one of the region’s best beers of 2011 – light, fragrant and reassuringly strong.
Camden have already moved on from being ‘noisy newcomers’ to scene stalwarts; their Pales, Lagers and Wheat Beers somewhat fuelling the Craft Beer Bar boom in London. Clean, aromatic Lagers and Helles sit side by side with US Brown ales in their roster, and I am sure 2012 will see their popular beers hitting pubs and bars outside the capital with more regularity.
About Leigh Linley: http://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com
Leigh Linley has written about Beer and Food since 2007 through his popular blog, The Good Stuff. He has contributed to a number of print and online Beer publications, and promotes Independent Brewing through food matching, and is a member of The British Guild of Beer Writers.