Thursday, 15 October 2015 10:54

A golden age for British beer?

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Indy Man Beer Con 2015 1

Are we currently experiencing a golden age for British beer?

It's a question that cropped up constantly during last week's Indy Man Beer Con, even forming the basis of a lively panel debate on the opening night.

And so intoxicating is the air of excitement and exuberance that surrounds the festival, it would have been easy to answer 'yes' without a moment's thought.

The resplendent beauty of Manchester's Victoria Baths and unbridled enthusiasm of the brewing community infect the brain with a potent strain of optimism that tends to overwhelm all else.

Such is the sense of carefree ebullience, at times it feels as if the world has stopped. As if nothing exists outside the warm, cosy bubble of beer and bonhomie - or, at least, nothing else matters.

But putting all that aside and applying a more level head to the question at hand, 'golden age' is overstating the situation somewhat.

It would be naive to suggest the modern British beer scene isn't completely free from flaws. The issues of price and quality standards have been covered at length elsewhere but one other challenge evident at Indy Man is the difficulty in extending the appeal of good beer beyond the white middle class - although price has been a driving factor here too.

Despite this, it is still an excellent era for drinkers and two beers at Indy Man, in particular, reaffirmed my belief in this.

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Buxton Ice Cream Pale and Cloudwater Guji Sidamo coffee lager aren't typical benchmark beers but both highlight how modern, independent brewers have enriched the industry by introducing new approaches to supplement long-standing tradition.

Neither of these beers would have been commercially-produced 20 years ago - and many would still write them off as gimmicks now - but the accomplished nature in which these unique concepts were executed demonstrates the power of creativity and innovation.

It's not beer as we know it but the flavour combinations work so well, it becomes impossible to deny such experiments have a place in the beer-drinking experience.

And this is where the industry has benefited hugely in recent years.

I consider myself lucky to be able to pay less than £3 for a decent pint of bitter or mild in my local but also to find a wider range of cask at a number of more adventurous pubs in the area. I'm lucky to have easy access to a huge selection of modern styles produced by British micros but also to find the odd experiment that will push my palate outside of its comfort zone.

Not every experience will be a positive one and there's still much work to be done before the term 'golden age' applies, but the consumer is presented with greater choice than ever before.

Indy Man Beer Con highlights the advancements that have been made - and will continue to be made - as a result of the recent brewing boom, adding new layers to this country's already-rich tradition.

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Read 10082 times Last modified on Thursday, 15 October 2015 12:34

4 comments

  • Comment Link El Capitan Thursday, 15 October 2015 12:38 posted by El Capitan

    Great article. I think we're approaching the golden age, but we've got a way to go yet. When you consider that in the US 3 out of 4 people are never more than 10 miles from a brewery, there's definitely room to grow. I'm really gutted I missed Indy Man Beer Con.

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  • Comment Link Reading Tom Thursday, 15 October 2015 13:51 posted by Reading Tom

    "in the US 3 out of 4 people are never more than 10 miles from a brewery". Given the UK already has more breweries per head and a much higher population density than the US I suspect we already beat the them on that particular statistic - the US has some catching up to do !

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  • Comment Link Zak Saturday, 17 October 2015 21:31 posted by Zak

    I think the thing to remember is that Indyman isn't at all indicative of the beer scene as a whole in the UK - it's actually an expertly curated beer festival, in a way that a lot of CAMRA festivals never are. But my personal experience is that there is a lot more badly-made beer around these days than there was even a few years ago.

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  • Comment Link Connor Tuesday, 20 October 2015 09:06 posted by Connor

    Zak - I agree completely. I'd go so far as to say even in the last year I've noticed an increase in the amount of questionable or just plain bad beers on the market. Hopefully some of the chancers will be naturally weeded out as a result of consumer demand but there is call for a unified industry approach to this too, I feel.

    But I do also feel we've benefited from changes to the industry too though. New approaches have added variety and freshness but then I do admit that Buxton and Cloudwater are not representative of the majority of micros out there - both are incredibly hot on QA and can draw on a significant bank of brewing experience and knowledge.

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