CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival is a showcase for some of the globe’s most innovative brewers. Susanna Forbes takes a trot round Olympia to discover what trends we might be seeing in 2016
TURN TO THE DARK SIDE
Dancing Duck Brewery’s Dark Drake from Derbyshire showed off fabulous dark and milk chocolate flavours (4.5%), while London’s Five Points Railway Porter is a liquorice-tinged brew (4.8%).
‘There are only two porters I have ever liked,’ said GBBF bar manager Kate Barrowclough. ‘And this is the second one.’ And one of the first beers to sell out? Titanic’s Plum Porter (4.9%).
HERE COME THE BELGIANS
Belgium is all the rage in the States. Spencer Trappist Ale is brewed by the only Trappist brewery in the US and has trademark bananas and cloves, light hop bitterness and a food-friendly finish (6.5%).
‘Saisons have become popular,’ said GBBF bar manager Kerr Kennedy. Take Epic Brewing Company’s Brainless on Peaches – not just a mad name, an unforgettable beer with serious aperitif potential (10.2%). Using Belgian-style Brainless beer as the base, it’s matured in French Chardonnay oak barrels with peach purée. Aromas of peach and bananas, with subtle peaches and nice sparkle on the palate.
No longer do British punters need to gaze across the Atlantic for wacky blends – try Leatherbritches’ Lemongrass & Ginger (3.8%) – or punchy, hop-forward beers – try Rooster’s Baby-Faced Assassin (see Tips).
There’s renewed respect for that most British of styles: bitter. In traditional form Wensleydale’s Falconer showed impeccable balance of light malt sweetness and gentle hop notes. While for a modern interpretation, try the freshly crowned CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain, Tiny Rebel’s Cwtch (pronounced ‘cootch’, meaning cuddle in Welsh), with its light caramel notes balanced by pleasing pine and tropical notes (4.6%).
SERIOUSLY WEIRD STUFF
The quest for unusual ingredients continues unabated. OeOe, a crafty saison collaboration from hip Dutch duo Oedipus and Oersoep, had hibiscus and rose leaves in the mix, offering tangy aromas, subtle petal flavours and an elegant, palate-cleansing sparkle (5%).
Broumov Opat from the Czech Republic had 10 different flavoured beers on offer, our favourite being the zestily refreshing Grapefruit (5%).
And it’s not all citrus additions. Birra del Borgo showed Equilibrista, a sassy beer where wort is mixed with Sangiovese must and co-fermented, first with beer yeast and second, in the bottle, with wine yeast (see below).
AMAZING, INNOVATIVE ITALIANS
With less beer tradition to constrain creativity, Italian brewers are making the most of the free hand afforded to them, says Luca Giaccone, editor of Guida alle Birre d’Italia. Their experiments might include medieval plants being added into the brew, barrel-ageing, or exploring crazy crossover styles, such as German Pils with a splash of dry hopping.
Take the Barley brewery in Sardinia for example. Its BB Boom has Vermentino sapa (cooked wine must, normally used in Sardinian sweets) added into the fermentation vessel, resulting in a stunning beer (see below).
SMALLER CENTRAL EUROPEANS
Previously dominated by big brands or regional beer styles, countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic are now sprouting smaller breweries with style. Andechs, a German monastery brewery, showed several deft beers, including a quaffable, lightly-hoppedVollbier Hell (4.8%), as well as a welcoming wheat beer, Weisbier Hell (5.5%).
Meanwhile in the Czech Republic, Matuška is one to watch. ‘Impeccable,’ said Pivovar’s Jamie Hawksworth. Having tasted its incredibly precise, floral Summer Ale, with its lengthy New World hop finish, I’d agree.
Barley, BB Boom, Italy (9%) Stoned fruit flavours, incredible depth and angelica notes on the finish. For other Barley beers: Italian Craft Beers, firstname.lastname@example.org
Birra del Borgo, Equilibrista, Italy (10.9%) Matured for at least a year. Look for cranberries, raspberries, sour cherries and a long cherry bakewell finish. Vertical Drinks, 01133 458835
Green Flash Brewing Co, Citra Session, USA (4.5%) The malt balances the attractive hop bite. The Bottle Shop, 020 3490 9252
Primátor, Weizenbier, Czech Republic (4.8%) Traditionally hopped with Saaz, the perfectly poised palate has a delicate sparkle. Pivovar, 01904 607197
Roosters, Baby-Faced Assassin, Yorkshire (6.1%) Complex and hop-infused. Likely to delight if you try it with mature cheese. Roosters, 01423 865959