Possibly a failing of my use of the search function, but I couldn’t find a dedicated beer thread and thought I’d stick my neck out and start one.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given my username, beer (both too-cool-for-school craft and CAMRA-absolutist cask) was one of my entry points into more considered/thoughtful drinking and I think that measured both in terms of quality and diversity of style, the beer scene in the UK is in something of a golden era.
Probably understandably given its not part of the core offer and given the accessibilty of it elsewhere, I think the WS beer range is a bit basic, and my purchasing is almost exclusively via other suppliers.
I’d be interested to hear about what beers people here are drinking/purchasing; is there much wine/beer-geek crossover in an appreciation of weird and wonderful sours, pastry stouts and hazy double IPAs that smell like a police evidence locker; or more traditional styles, be they crisp Belgian Tripels or a malty hand-pulled pint of Best Bitter?
I’d agree that we’re lucky in the UK to have access to such a wide range of beers, many locally brewed. I’ve read a few things recently suggesting the “golden era” may have passed though, with small breweries getting into financial difficulties. I haven’t paid super-close attention but I imagine energy and raw material costs are significantly up while cost of living pressures are turning consumers towards more modest prices.
I’d be keen for TWS to dip its toe a little further into beer sales. One of the issues I’ve found in buying from UK small breweries direct is the sometimes punishing shipping costs. I did also, briefly, have a subscription to Beer52 (I think it was) but I cancelled it on sustainability grounds – their USP was each delivery being beers from a particular country and it seemed (to me) unjustifiable in sustainability terms having a case of craft beer from Melbourne when there’s so much to discover in the UK or at least much closer to home.
FWIW, my present go-tos are Ilkley and Langton for traditional and Arbor for craft.
Personally, I still miss the glory days of the craft beer revolution, and mourn the transition of the likes of Beaverton from genuinely exciting BBQ joint back-room experiment into ubiquitous, grossly over-priced mass-market mediocrity. And don’t get me started on Brewdog…
I’m a fan of Purity (esp Gold), the semi-local Hammerton (N1, Panama Creatures & Tuned all great) and some of Oakham’s widely available beers (Citra, Inferno) as well as well-kept pint of draft golden ale.
Good challenge on rising costs etc. - I suppose that’s all the more reason to share and champion the places that need/deserve our support. I agree that TWS could do more in the beer space if they wanted to; I feel, like the range has definitely shrunk since I became a member in 2020?
I have very fond (if sometimes hazy!) memories of the Beavertown taproom about a decade ago before I left London, I was very sad to see it bought out by Heineken. I think part of my perception is based on now being up in the north west whether there is still a thriving community of truly independent breweries producing all sorts of stuff that is just as exciting (and I genuinely think is often better) than that first wave of British craft beer.
I’m a particular fan of Marble, Vocation and Pomona but I am very much spoilt for local choice around here; though that doesn’t stop me ordering an annual case of Harvey’s Christmas Ale without which Xmas wouldn’t be the same!
I got into all grain beer brewing a few years ago. Loved pratting about with recipes, tweaking here and there; experimenting with quality grain, wonderful liquid yeasts and hops from all over (that merit their own freezer). I brew a lot less now, just a handful of times a year as I was just making too much. Here is a pic of my commercial fridge, at the height of brewing output. I don’t bother with labels now, and have just the one batch on the go at any one time, presently an oxymoronic Black IPA whose abv I’ve managed to dial down to a more modest 4.2% yet packed full of (largely Citra , dry-hopped) flavour. St Austell’s brewery kindly gifted me some of their house yeast when I did a brewery tour a few years ago and I kept that going for a couple of years with my Nod to Proper Job brew. What with the quality of the equipment and ingredients available today it’s possible to make really excellent beer if so inclined.
One of my brothers-in-law used to do a lot of brewing too, though as much / more cider and perry as beer.
There’s something very pleasurable & satisfying about drinking homebrewed beer & cider, I find [well; as long as the homebrewer knows their stuff of course. It can be horrific and sometimes downright dangerous for the same reasons!]
Uley brings back fond memories of living in Gloucestershire . The owner of Uley, along with the owner of Smiles (Bristol) were both regularly spotted in my local. Smiles Exhibition was a personal favourite.
Nowadays Adnams Broadside is my go to beer. I like dark, malty bitters - and shy well clear of lots of pale, overly citrus craft beer. Even the once reliable Ghost Ship seems to have leaned too far down the citrus route.
I do still have some Whitbread Celebration Ale in the cellar. Must be a decade since I tried a bottle. May try one next weekend.
Thank you. Things have come a long way since Boots homebrew kits in the 1980s. It is really quite hard to make something really that bad. The key thing is scrupulous sanitation. With decent ingredients and stable fermentation temperature control it’s pretty straightforward to make a half decent beer. It is satisfying. I had a go at making some wine using the most expensive kit I could get my hands on, an Australian Grenache rose and it was pretty good BBQ fare. You can’t get close to anything remotely like a fine wine without disappearing down a few rabbit holes and I realised that I should stick to making beer. Excellent all grain beer brewing in a home environment is achievable, not so with decent wine, the likes of which are why we are TWS Members, IMHO.
I think my taste in beer has changed over time much more than my taste in wine. I used to enjoy fairly heavy strong ales, these days I prefer beers that are lighter and hoppy. Anything with citra hops is likely to be a winner, any very malty is likely not to be. Beers from Oakham, Saltaire, and Dark Star are current favourites.
When it comes to beer, it’s worth noting the big difference between bottled and cask beers. I’m pretty ho hum about anything in bottle (my go-to is Swan Blonde from Cumbria, sold in Booths) and certainly wouldn’t seek out bottles to buy online as I do with wine. But I would and do (in Michelin-speak) make significant detours or special journeys to visit pubs with well-kept ales.
We used to visit a pub in Somerset which, having built up a very good trade over about 12 years, was sold to St Austell brewery in 2019.
It’s in a prime location and always seems busy, but has just closed down, with the landlord citing the ‘cost of living.’ Rumour has it that it was the rent that did for them, but no detail is forthcoming (NDA?). A very strange time to close, with absolute peak season just starting.