It’s no secret that beer holds a special place in the hearts of drinkers across the UK. As of 2020, there are 3,018 operating breweries in the UK, according to UHY Hacker Young, which is a 7.5% increase since 2019. But the UK is no longer associated with mainstream beers. Drinkers are gravitating towards a more craft and artisanal approach to beer.
For decades, many have stuck to the classics like Heineken, Carlsberg, and Guinness. However, at some point in the 1970s, something else was brewing in the West Coast of the United States. Many ‘microbreweries’ were emerging, creating the most sought-after craft beer at the time (and even now)- the India Pale Ale (IPA).
But did you know that the IPA originated in the UK? During the early years, when the British Empire was in place, many troops stationed in India had an urge for a chilled pint. However, since it was too hot to brew there, London brewers found a way to create a beer that could travel around the world and remain the same over months. This was done by adding extra hops to beers - and the IPA was created.
Both beer buffs and newer drinkers have taken a liking to the craft beer sector. The main factor that drove the rise of craft beer in the UK was the urge to explore more and be able to sip on more than just a lager at the local pub.
The increasing demand for different beer styles in the UK has brought about the birth of many breweries creating something new for patrons. From IPAs to sour beers and even dessert-flavoured beers, the world of craft beer has expanded immensely creating flavours never seen before.
Today, many craft breweries in the UK have reached a level where they’re active competitors with the bigger, classic beer brands. Not only are they loved in the UK, but are also gaining recognition around the world with many accolades and awards from well-known competitions around the world.
The 2021 London Beer Competition awarded many craft breweries with medals. Ikat, an IPA by Salt Beer Factory scored 94 points, and took home the title of Best in Show by Country, making it the best beer in the UK. Salt Beer Factory was founded in 2018 with the purpose to create pleasure through beer. According to the team at the Salt Beer Factory, ‘Craft beer is our means to impact people above beyond their taste buds’.
Salt Beer Factory, source: Instagram
Ikat wasn’t the only award-winner at the competition. Other beers by the brewery also took home medals. Alpaca - an IPA and Citra - a citrus-based hazy beer each won a gold medal. Meanwhile, Calico Session Pale, which is a gluten-free beer, was awarded a silver medal. Salt Beer Factory was also crowned Brewery of the Year for the year 2021. Other craft breweries that impressed judges at the competition were The Beerblefish Brewing Company Limited, Franklins Brewery (Brighton) LTD, Toast Ale, and many more.
According to a report published by Statista, among craft beers in the UK, Scottish brewery BrewDog’s IPA is the best-selling craft beer for both off-trade and on-trade. In fact, BrewDog is the leading craft beer company in the UK. Today, BrewDog is a favourite among many drinkers, making it one of the go-to brands out there. The brewery grew to great heights, allowing them to open their own, and the world’s first craft beer hotel in 2018 - The Doghouse.
BrewDog has also collaborated with other craft breweries like Cloudwater, Northern Monk, Modern Times, and Evil Twins - giving drinkers a wide range of options from the experience of two brewers.
But craft beer is not only different styles and tastes. The traditional way of brewing craft beer has become so popular that many breweries have been building their own craft lagers. Pillars Brewery is London’s first craft lager brewery based in Walthamstow, and home to award-winning brews like Icebock. The brewery started off as a family business and remains a team of family and close friends.
Pillars Brewery Taproom, source: Instagram
With the tastes of drinkers changing and craft brewers experimenting with styles, the UK’s beer scene is set to grow in the craft beer sector.
Some of our favorite craft beers
Ikat by Salt Beer Brewery
Award-winning IPA, Ikat expresses lots of tropical hop aromas. The beer, according to judges at the London Beer Competition, has plenty of body, and a good, long, and balanced bitter finish. Ikat also shows notes of citrus and tropical fruits and spices give way to warming mango, melon, and passionfruit flavours with a gentle lingering bitterness.
BrewDog Punk IPA
The BrewDog Punk IPA is what kick-started the brewery’s success. Expect bursts of caramel and tropical fruit with an all-out riot of grapefruit, pineapple, and lychee preceding a spiky bitter finish.
1820 Porter by The Beerblefish Brewing Company Limited
Grabbing a gold medal at the 2021 London Beer Competition, the 1820 porter by The Beerblefish Brewing Company Limited is a must-try. According to judges, this is a ‘clean, smoky, chocolatey, and tangy porter’. The beer shows notes of cold brew coffee, chocolate, and toasted hazelnut. The 1820 Porter is available in a cask, KeyKeg, 5-litre mini-cask, and 500ml bottle.
Icebock by Pillars Brewery
Pillars Brewery is the first craft lager brewery in London and has given birth to this award-winner that scored 90 points at the London Beer Competition 2021. Icebock is caramel lager brewed over six months and then frozen in a tank for a clean drinking experience. The palate delivers with a velvety chocolate caramel kick of sweetness that leads to a dry finish.
18 Farmhouse Ale (Blackberry & Blackcurrant) by Brew By Numbers
With a 7% abv, this flavoured pale ale is brewed to celebrate the vibrancy of seasonal British hedgerow fruits. The beer starts with a complex farmhouse pale base before racking onto fresh blackcurrants and blackberries. The result is a satisfyingly complex and refreshing beer, enjoyed on its own or with fine food.
Header Image: Brewdog, source: Instagram