London Beer Week 2016 came to a crescendo with Craft Beer Rising, an assembly of 150 international breweries showcasing their core, seasonal and one-off beers to a discerning crowd. Aptly staged at the Old Truman Brewery in East London, independent brewers rubbed shoulders with the pacesetters of the craft beer scene. Mainstream brands demonstrated that they still had their finger on the pulse of new brewing trends: Meantime Brewery collaborated with Original Gravity Magazine to offer London Gravity, a black lager, and promote their pilot brew programme. Camden Town Brewery was pouring two limited edition brews: the Flue Faker, a smoked larger, and No Substitutions, a breakfast porter. In true character, Brewdog didn’t shy away from the chance to generate a buzz and launched their Jet Black Heart, a nitro milk stout, at CBR2016.
Other brewery vanguards from the US were in attendance to push their IPAs and pale ales on a UK audience. Sierra Nevada offered a tropical IPA and their Celebration IPA, both balanced, citrusy hop-forward beers highly characteristic of American style IPAs. Celebration was offered to drinkers branded as ‘super fresh’, meaning that it was freshly-hopped (within a week of the hops being dried). This is said to enhance the flavour and aromatic features of the hops, resulting in a ramped-up drink that is bursting with fruity malt flavours and a surge of citrusy, punchy hops.
Goose Island was also highly visible at CBR, hosting invite-only tasting sessions on the lower floor, where ambassadors from Chicago talked drinkers through the Goose Island range. Honkers ale and 312 urban wheat beer were purveyed alongside some of their limited vintages ales, including the Gillian- a Belgian style farmhouse beer that is partially aged in wine barrels- and Lolita- a Belgian style pale ale fermented with wild yeast and aged with raspberries in wine barrels. A representative from Blue Point Brewing Company (Long Island) was also present, introducing drinkers to their beer and hinting at upcoming launches in the UK market. Following CBR2016, Camden Brewery announced a collaboration with Goose Island that will be launched at the brewery-owned pub, Camden’s Daughter in Kentish Town, in early March 2016.
Behemoths aside, there were plenty of respected smaller scale breweries on hand. Brew by Numbers had an extensive selection of a wide range of styles. In particular, the 01|02 saison (Amarillo & orange) was a perfect session beer, offering a harmonised balance of juicy Amarillo hops with aromatics extracted from Seville orange peel. It was clean, light with a dry finish and popular with the crowd.
Another refreshing pick was the Cali American pale ale from Tiny Rebel Brewery, based in Newport, Wales. It demonstrated a bouquet of citrusy flavours typical of West Coast APAs, finishing with a light bitterness and tropical notes that were balanced with some earthiness. It was yet another crisp session beer that was remarkable for its big, juicy flavour.
A brewery that caught our attention was Lervig Aktiebryggeri, a Norwegian operation that has worked alongside some recognised UK-based breweries, including Wild Beer Co and Magic Rock Brewery, to produce some boundary-pushing beer. A worthy example of their unusual offerings was Pop That Cherry, a sour fruit beer that poured a deep red with a frothy pink head and had a distinct, jammy aroma. On the palate, it was tart with an astringent finish, but not dominated by the sweetness of cherry as anticipated. It was pleasant, surprising and not at all cloying (as is the tendency of some fruit beers).
In particular, independent breweries help define events like CBR2016. They exude their passion for the craft and tirelessly peddle their beer to an unfamiliar audience. This was epitomised in the enthusiasm of Seb Jones, MD of Speyside Craft Brewery in Scotland, who was prepared to literally strap a sign to his back in an attempt to entice drinkers. The Speyside whiskey cask IPA, a special limited batch, was a sweet and smoky beer that lacked the unpleasant lingering smoke aftertaste detected in other similar styles at the event. It was a good example of an unsung exemplary beer from a small brewery.
Naturally, each attendee must implement a vetting process when it comes to making the most of events on the scale of CBR2016. Avoiding familiar styles and favourites is the first step, followed by circumventing local or readily available breweries. Open-mindedness is also key. Finally, these events are a great way to discern what styles are becoming more prevalent across the breweries- smoked beers and nitro stouts were prominent at the festival, for instance.
Despite this, it’s impossible not visit the stalls of the breweries that constantly deliver; for this reason, Magic Rock, Beavertown Brewery and Wild Beer Co consistently drew crowds throughout the session. Each of the new beers from Wild Beer Co was spot on. They launched III, a barley wine, for CBR2016- it was a sweet blend of caramelised orange peel and pomegranate molasses, lightly carbonated but with a boozy hit (9% ABV). With an oily mouthfeel and hints of bitterness, it was divisive but a typical representation of another unusual- but well executed- offering from the brewery.
Craft Beer Rising 2016 was the perfect terminus to London Beer Week and provided a platform for drinkers to spot future trends in brewing and sample special and newly launched ranges from a collection of reputable breweries. Although many of the beers offered at the event will be difficult to source outside of CBR2016, many of the breweries and their core ranges are always stocked in the Honest Brew shop. With a little luck, some of these beers will become more readily available online soon; our range is always growing, so watch this space.
Article originally published on the Honest Brew blog here.