The craft beer movement has its roots in the 1960s, but modern fans of English craft beer have the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to thank. Back in 2002, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Brown’s budget included a tax break for small breweries. The result was an explosion in the number of craft breweries, which more than tripled within 15 years and some estimates place the total number at over 2000, compared to just 500 at the start of the century.
That has been great news for beer fans. We now live in a time when you can access a bewildering array of fresh, tasty beers, from stouts and porters to sours and IPAs, whether you’re buying your beer by the bottle, the can or the keg. Here are ten of the very best English beers currently available .
Sleeping Lemons – Wild Beer Company
Based in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, the Wild Beer Company have produced this intriguing sours beer. This form of beer is an acquired taste, and this particular variety is a ‘gose’ a style that originated in Germany, and which is usually brewed with salt and coriander. But the Wild Beer Company have added a new twist, adding lemon flavour. There’s also a lime edition and the result is a refreshing and tart taste that is perfect for drinking with fish meals.
Broken Dream – Siren
Siren’s Broken Dream is technically known as a breakfast stout, although this refers to the fact that coffee and oats have been used in its brewing, not that it should be drunk for breakfast! This is a distinctively luxurious beer that offers a complex, deep flavour, due partly to the use of no less than six separate malts, including one variety that is smoked, along with lactose to boost the beer’s body. It’s a gorgeous drink and no surprise that it landed the Supreme Champion Beer of Britain in 2018.
Railway Porter – Five Points
Five Points is a London-based brewery, operating in the railway arches in Hackney, and they are producing some of the UK’s most exciting beers. Their Railway Porter certainly packs a punch with its powerful flavour and aroma, offering hints of coffee, burnt toast and chocolate. A dark, delightful beer, Five Points have produced something special that is smooth to drink.
First Chop Hop – First Chop
First Chop are one of England’s most famous vegan and gluten free breweries, and have made a big impression from their base under a Manchester railway arch. Having started off produced 400 litres of beer per month, they are now operating a third brewhouse, situated in Salford, which produces 30,000 litres a week. Their First Chop Hop is one of their most popular products and represents a refreshing pale ale enjoyed by vegans and non-vegans alike.
Jaipur – Thornbridge
Unquestionably one of the best IPA’s around, Jaipur is produced by Thornbridge of Bakewell in Derbyshire. Winner of more than 100 awards around the world, including the gold medal at the World Beer Awards, it is a winning combination of six hop varieties, including Centennial and Cascade and offers a perfect American IPA style blend of bitterness, aroma and flavour.
Love And Hate – Vocation
Love and Hate by Vocation of Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire is another American IPA, but in the New England style. It’s an India Pale Ale with a big twist, much thicker than Jaipur due to the addition of wheat and oats. Produced through a triple dry-hopping process, it is juicy with a powerful flavour that, as the name indicates, is likely to divide opinion, but there are few more distinctive IPAs out there.
Keller Pils – Lost And Grounded
The Bristol brewers Lost And Grounded, whose hand-drawn can labels are designed to form a panoramic picture when placed alongside one another, have produced one of the most popular craft beers out there. A crisp and clear offering, it is an expert combination of three types of hops along with German pilsner malt, that offers a pure, thirst-quenching quality.
Milk Shake – Wiper And True
A rich milk stout from another Bristol brewers, Wiper and True. It could arguably be described as a ‘pudding beer’ for its smooth yet chocolatey, moreish qualities, which include a vanilla edge. The richness of the drink is due in part to the presence of lactose sugar, which help to give it that milkshake feel. But although it packs a sweet flavour, the blend and the balance of ingredients ensure that it isn’t cloying or sickly, offering an indulgent, yet refreshing experience.
The Honey Blonde – Hiver
This is a crisp, clean blonde beer produced, as the name suggests, with the use of honey. The honey in question comes from three different sources. Yorkshire heather honey is combined with apple blossom honey from Kent and urban London honey. The result is a beer that isn’t as sweet as you might think, though it offers a warming honey aroma and a seductive flavour. Not surprisingly, this drink has scooped its share of awards, including gold at the 2018 World Beer Challenge.
8 Ball – Beavertown
The Beavertown brewery in Tottenham is one of the most prominent English craft beer producers, and have already been responsible for a number of popular drinks such as Neck Oil and Gamma Ray. Their 8 Ball is a red IPA, which occupies the middle ground between hop-heavy and darker maltier beers. Beavertown add rye to the mash, which produces an element of spice to the blend. This was actually one of Beavertown’s first beers, named after the pool balls used to weigh down the hop bag.