I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoy a craft beer every now again. And I’m not even a hipster. Okay, I have a beard. And a Penny Farthing. But, let’s face it: at the end of the day, I drink because it’s just a way to celebrate the fact I made it through the daily grind. And they also taste a lot better than the commercially produced dross you’ll find in the supermarkets. One thing that has come to my attention, though, during a brief moment of clarity, has been in the rise of ‘craft ales’ that are now available. But where did it all come from?
The Rise of American Craft Beer
Brewers on both sides of the Atlantic have tapped into the fact that we are sick of the bland range of commercial beers available. I mean, ultimately they all taste the same. Previously in the UK, American beer (Budweiser, Miller or Coors) were considered a bit of a joke – and a weak one at that. But all this has been steadily changing for the better.
Thanks to the small US producers best known for India pale ales and other decidedly non-Budweiser-esque beers, exports have gone through the roof in the past few years, with Canada, the UK and Sweden drinking most of it that leaves the country. Here’s a few favourite imports to try:
• Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, California). At 5.6% ABV this is an almost perfect pale ale that is often imitated by many other craft beer makers
• 5 Barrel Pale Ale (Odell Brewing, Colorado). Odell has been brewing for 23 years, and this is one of its A-list beers. As with all good pale ales, it’s fresh and fruity and at 5.2% ABV, it’s dangerously drinkable.
• Dale’s Pale Ale (Oskar Blues Brewery, Colorado). At 6.5% ABV it’s stronger and full-bodied, but works as a good session beer. Especially if you’re hiking. Or just sitting in your room all alone on a Friday night staring at the walls.
English Brewers Strike Back
Following the many success stories in the USA for independent ales, Britain is now firmly in the grip of its own craft beer revolution.
So what’s driving the craft beer boom in the UK? Back in 2002 the Government gave a number of tax breaks to small brewers. It took a while for them to set up and take advantage of the scheme, but now nine out of 10 British breweries benefit from this tax relief.
It’s all about flavour, not format too. Many of the new UK craft ale producers have adopted the ‘quality over quantity’ approach to craft brewing that attracts scores of hip, community-focused beer fans. Here’s a few of our favourite craft ales from the UK:
• Punk IPA (BrewDog, Scotland). BrewDog creates some incredible beers. Punk is almost tame by the brewer’s standards, this one is 5.6% ABV, but is outstanding
• Meantime IPA (Meantime Brewing Company, London). The ideal beer to take to a dinner party, especially if the food is spicy, but at 7.4% ABV, watch out.
• Camden Pale (Camden Town Brewery, London). The pale is very clean and drinkable and at 4.9% ABV won’t put you on your back. It is also worth trying their Camden Hells lager, which has taken inspiration from US ales.
• Neck Oil Session IPA (Beavertown Brewery, London). This is a session ale in name and in nature. The brewers wanted a drink you could neck from 8am and throughout the day. And you probably could. But we don’t wholly recommend it. Unless it was a Saturday.
So where do you sit when it comes to this debate. Are craft beers only for hipsters? Let us know below.