The British debut of Goose Island's 312 Urban Wheat Ale on draught was among the highlights of the Manchester leg of the first trade roadshow of Pioneer Brewing Company, AB InBev UK's standalone stable of 'specialist' breweries.
Named after the Chicago dialling code, 312 happens to be Goose Island's bestseller in Chicago. At 4.2%, it offers a deftly spiced and gently hopped evocation of a wheat beer, and joins the brewery's IPA and recently arrived Honker's Ale on draught,
Other new faces to the UK beer scene include the much sought after Spaten from Munich. 'I've been trying to persuade them to bring it in for a while,' New World Trading Company's Warren McCoubrey told Imbibe, explaining how Spaten was responsible for the world's first Oktoberfest beer. Also a favourite of Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh, Spaten starts its UK journey with a helles-style lager that has plenty of food-friendly depth (5.2%).
For Rick Warrier of southern-states-inspired restaurant group Hickory's Smokehouse, it was Long Island's Blue Point Brewing Company with its Toasted Lager that appealed (5.5%). With the depth that comes from a mashbill of six different grains, could this have enough ballast to tackle delicately smoked foods as well as the Long Island oysters the brewery was named after?
Other beers on show included well known names Leffe and Hoegaarden, as well as those with less of a UK profile, such as Germany's renowned Franziskaner and Dutch innovators Hertog Jan. In addition, Pioneer showcased Goose Island's new education package, Hoppy Hour. Including sessions for both staff and consumers, following successful trials in London and the West Midlands, the three-stage initiative is set to reach up to 200 destinations in 2016. Expect tastes, talks and VR tours of Goose Island's own hop fields, barrel room and brewery.
The Pioneer roadshow continues 18 July in Manchester at the People's History Museum, and arrives in London, 26 & 27 July, at Last Days of Shoreditch, Red Market, Old Street.