The Brit Pack

Inspired by American-style craft beers, British brewers are reinventing their nation’s beer scene.

By Joshua M. Bernstein

 

PEN03_026_PourHouse-crop

As a 19-year-old spending the summer in London, all I wanted to do was drink beer. By day, I toiled at the Great American Bagel Factory. By night, I hit pubs and clubs alike and knocked back countless pints of bitters, milds, and brown ales.

Back then, I was too inexperienced to savor the nuanced pleasures of British beer. After returning to the States, I fell under the spell of American craft beer, adoring the no-holds-barred approach to bitterness and flavor. Give me a double IPA or give me death!

But now, British beer is accelerating into the future, as daredevil Brits and Scots have begun shaking off the shackles of tradition. Inspired by a trip to the West Coast and hop-focused breweries such as Stone, in 2007 Scotland’s BrewDog founders James Watt and Martin Dickie began forging a new identity. The pungent Hardcore IPA, dizzyingly strong Tokyo* imperial stout, and Dogma Scotch ale (infused with guarana, honey, kola nuts, and poppy seeds) were hardly humdrum ales to nurse alongside fish and chips.

Today, U.K. craft brewers are firing like a finely tuned engine, and the beer scene is as varied and inventive as its counterpart across the pond. In London, Kernel Brewery has made waves with its bold and citrusy American-inspired pale ales and IPAs, while Partizan Brewing ups the ante with aromatic saisons. Camden Town Brewery does spot-on spins on foreign styles, such as the supremely drinkable, American-style Camden Pale Ale and the unfiltered Hells Lager, which is as refreshing as anything brewed in Germany.

Also in England, Thornbridge Brewery is adept at classic styles like the Kill Your Darlings Vienna-style lager, as well as fresh and thoroughly modern IPAs. Siren Craft Brew explores brewing’s outer limits with beers like Lemon Cello, which mimics Italy’s Limoncello liqueur, and Magic Rock has a deft touch with such sour ales as the tart Salty Kiss, which contains gooseberries, sea buckthorn, and sea salt.

If there’s a downside to this tidal wave of terrific beer, it’s this: To sample the lion’s share, you must travel to London. But, increasingly, these British craft beers have begun traveling across the Atlantic, washing up at bars and bottle shops on our shores. Consider this the start of a welcome new British invasion.

 

The Wild Beer Co. Somerset Saison

The invigorating saison is dosed with Sorachi Ace hops, which lend a lemony complexity to the spicy beer. The brewery also dabbles in making beer with wild Brettanomyces yeast.

 

Meantime London Porter

Brewed with seven malts and loads of earthy Fuggles hops, the porter’s aroma of lightly roasted malt and cocoa leads to flavors of coffee, toffee, and peat smoke. The dark beer drinks creamy, with a dry conclusion.

 

Thornbridge Brewery Jaipur

Named after a city in western India, Thornbridge’s citrus-forward IPA partners a smooth, honeyed profile with a bit of grass and gobs of grapefruit. The bitterness won’t blow out your palate.

 

Siren Craft Brew Lemon Cello

To re-create Italy’s Limoncello liqueur, the crafty Brits lightly soured the beer, then added lemon zest and juice, sweet lactose sugar, and tons of tropical Citra and lemony Sorachi Ace hops.

 

From the March 2015 issue of Penthouse