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Friday, 6 January 2017

Beers and Breweries to Drink in 2017

Rather than write a Golden Pints post, here’s are the breweries and beers that will be at the top of my list this year.

These days I tend to value good beer over new beer and there’s a small number of breweries that I more often than not go to. I’m not going to waste your time talking about how much I like Kernel or Brew by Numbers and so on. People know about them already. So, putting that comfort blanket to one side, here are some things to look out for that you might not have considered:

Gun Brewery

Operating out of East Sussex, Gun Brewery have a tight core range with slick branding. Their Milk Stout is banging. I picked up some of their stuff in Brighton last summer and was really impressed. More recently I had the pleasure of their Sorachi Ace hopped DIPA - a quintessential West Coast IPA with as good an expression of the Sorachi Ace hop as you’ll find.

I’ll be picking up their special releases whenever I see them and I’ll buy their milk stout whenever it crosses my path.

Thornbridge Lukas

Nobody will be surprised to hear plaudits for Thornbridge. They’ve been at the top of the craft pile in the UK for years now with good reason. Their Lukas Helles is something else though. I’d argue it’s more in the style of a German Pilsner than a Munich Helles because the hop profile is huge - not in bitterness terms, but in aroma and flavour terms. It just positively bursts forward with this elegant, sophisticated noble hop profile that few other brewers of lager manage to achieve. It’s surgically clean, it’s crisp and endlessly drinkable. If you don’t get lager, get a bottle of this. It sounds like the hyperbole of a contrarian, but you can keep you haze and your juice … I’d rather drink this.

Verdant Brewing Co.

Lots of people with opinions I respect are saying good things about Verdant Brewing Co. from Falmouth in Cornwall. I picked up their core range cans a month or so back and I wasn’t hugely impressed. They were decent but not without issues - I got oxidised notes and the suggestion of ageing hops. On tasting their more recent IPA and DIPA however, I could see signs of where they’re heading. I think they’re a brewery to watch for sure. It feels like the pieces of the puzzle are there and that they won’t take long to come together.

Elusive Brewing

Andy Parker of Elusive Brewing is about as nice a bloke as you’ll ever meet. He also gets huge respect from me for doing the seemingly obvious: he learnt how to brew beer well before opening a brewery. I went along to a tap takeover he did shortly after opening his brewery and every beer that night was excellent. How many new breweries take over a bar like the The Old Fountain and put an excellent beer on every tap? As many as have brewers that learn how to brew before opening a brewery, that’s how many.

I’ve picked up bottles since and been less impressed with the way they were packaged - some over carbonation issues - but if I see his beer this year, I’ll be buying it.

Cloudwater IPA

As good as the DIPAs from Cloudwater Brew Co. are, the IPAs are better. I’m basing this solely on the IPA Mosaic Exp 431 that they released at the end of 2016. That’s how good it was. Whilst DIPA v10 made all the noise, the IPA quietly blew it out of the water.

Wild Horse Brewing Company

Llandudno based Wild Horse Brewing Company brought their range of beer to London for an event at the Eebria Taproom last year. I wasn’t aware of this until I accidentally found myself there that Saturday afternoon. I ordered my first beer with zero expectation and left having drunk through an excellent range of really well put together beer. Blonde: good. Pale ale: good. Porter: really good. Even the pumpkin beer was worthy of a second glass.

Deya Brewing Company

An Instagram feed straight out of New England. 500ml cans with wrap-around labels. Hazy, pale, hop-forward beer. Deya Brewing Company had every right to be all style and no substance when I eventually got to try their Steady Rolling Man last year, but they weren’t. A little brewery from Cheltenham, that was barely a year old at the time, produced one of the best examples of the emergent New England IPA style that I tasted all year. I cannot wait to get hold of more of their stuff.

So there you have it. Some less obvious things to look out for in 2017. What are your top tips for the new year?

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Gun Brewery Sorachi Ace DIPA

Pop your head inside the craft beer bubble and find a trend more popular than the New England IPA. Hop-forward, pale beers dominated by New World hop varieties that deliver tropical fruit notes in preference to citrus. Low bitterness, full mouthfeel and, of course, lots of haze.

Misinformed detractors might call them the hallmark of a brewer incapable of making bright beer.

Supporters may have already forgotten, or perhaps don’t remember, that their way was paved by the West Coast IPA for a reason.

I’m into soft mouthfeel, juicy hops and low bitterness; but I also still enjoy assertively bitter, dry, clean beers that are packed full of citrusy qualities from those now not-so-new New World hop varieties.

All of this brings me neatly to Sorachi Ace DIPA from Gun Brewery. In a year that’s seen breweries trying to make hazier and hazier, juicer and juicer New England style IPA, Gun have stood out to me for making something far more classic than contemporary.

It’s a beer that’s quintessentially West Coast for me. Golden without the qualities of crystal malt, brilliantly clear, faultlessly clean fermentation, bone dry and assertively bitter. The malt gives a crackery profile that’s just enough to stay interesting without getting in the way - it's a canvas for hops to be painted over. And then come those hops: a huge, clear, precise expression of Sorachi Ace without ever becoming vegetal, leafy, oniony or dank. It’s like all the best bits were pulled out of the cone and the shit was left behind. It’s dill, lemon balm and pulpy coconut. Love it or hate it, West Coast hop or not, it’s exactly Sorachi Ace.

Nice one Gun, this is great beer.