Wed 01 Feb 2017

New Craft Beers For 2017

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Being given the opportunity to take over beer-buying duties for The Society was something that I grabbed with both hands.

In my opinion, the world of beer is every bit as varied as the world of wine, with just as many stories to tell and discoveries to be made. I hope to build a range here that reflects this. Craft beer has skyrocketed over the last few years, providing an exciting platform for so many brilliant small breweries to make their statement to the world.

And as The Wine Society is made up of people who take an interest in what they drink and who care about quality and provenance, it makes perfect sense to shine a light on these delicious artisanal brews.

Jaega Wise, head brewer at Wild Card brewery in WalthamstowJaega Wise, head brewer at Wild Card Brewery in Walthamstow

I’ve started expanding our range to make your Society a place to discover exceptional beers as well as wines, and would like to invite our members to join me on a trip of discovery.

Starting this year, we’ll be stocking some of the most interesting, daring and delicious beers from some of the best breweries in the UK and beyond.

Also new for 2017 is the option of being able to purchase bottles of beer individually, rather than just via a mixed case, so you can stock up on more of what you like best.

A truly good beer is something which you can enjoy in a similar way to a glass of wine. It should have layers of flavour, depth and complexity. And the great news is that exploring the world of beer won’t cost the earth. Since beer may cost £2 or £3 a pop (although some are much more and some less), you have the opportunity to taste a number of different styles for a much smaller outlay than it would cost you to sample an equivalent number of wines. You can really leave your comfort zone and try things you never would have thought you would like. What’s the worst that can happen? A £2.75 miss, against the possibility of discovering a thrilling new favourite with every last drop cherished!

Gipsy Hill Brewing Company: (left to right) founders Charlie and Sam, and head brewer SimonGipsy Hill Brewing Company: (left to right) founders Charlie and Sam, and head brewer Simon

There are no rules with craft beer, no constraints to what people might try to make. It truly is fascinating and exciting to follow. Like buying the wines of Burgundy, sometimes the best way to explore is to find a producer whose beers you like and keep an eye on them for new releases (but unlike Burgundy, if you decide to branch out, then the financial risk is minimal!).

I’m also fascinated to hear about some of your favourite beers too!

Is there is a brewery you’re a particular fan of? A drop which has stuck with you forever? Do leave a comment and let us know.

2017 is sure to be a crafty vintage at The Wine Society…

Freddy Bulmer
Society Buyer

Browse the latest craft beer arrivals here.

Comments

  1. Giles says:

    I’d second the Bermondsey beer mile fan above. Kernel is excellent – their ‘table beer’ delivers a 2.9% ABV session ipa which is the session equivalent of nanny state. It doesn’t taste like 2.9%!

    Also fun (and if you’ve visited gipsy hill you may know) are Canopy (first cans just released), Brixton (a bit hoppy for me) and Bullfinch.

    Finally, I don’t think Meantime qualify as craft anymore… but they were a real standard bearer in craft beers. Still a good choice if on tap in a London pub.

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Giles,

      Kernel really are an impressive brewery and the table beer is full of flavour at such low alcohol which isn’t easy to achieve!
      Canopy and Brixton are good but I haven’t tried Bullfinch, so thank you for the tip!

      Meantime were certainly a leader in the craft world a few years back. They have done very well indeed and are widely available now.
      I am keen to offer beers from some of the smaller producers who don’t get so much of the spotlight on a national scale.

      All the best and thanks again,

      Freddy

  2. Guy Platt says:

    You can’t go wrong with butty Bach from Herefordshire. It is bottle conditioned and although widely available locally I have never seen it anywhere else. Nothing fancy just a great beer!

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Guy,

      Sometimes that’s all you want – a great beer and no funny business!
      I will look them up.

      Many thanks,

      Freddy

  3. Graham F says:

    I recommend Westerham brewery in Kent. Their beers are quite distinctive, including a really excellent ordinary bitter, and nothing over-hopped. If youre looking further afield, three favourites from our regular trips to Belgium are Tripel Karmeliet, Rodenbach Grand Cru and Dupont saison. Good hunting, looking forward to sampling your selection!

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Graham,

      Thanks very much. I don’t know if it’s because I am a keen cyclist but I love a good Belgian beers – Kwaremont is the best of both worlds!
      Rodenbach is an absolute classic and a truly great beer, as is the Dupont.

      One day it would be great to expand our reach a little and offer a Belgian beer but it’s one step at a time for now!

      Cheers,

      Freddy

  4. Hi Freddy,

    First off, really good that the Society is doing this and the very best to you in making it a resounding success. There are some really good craft beers from around the world in supermarkets in the UK but it would be good if the Society could offer something a bit different. I spent some years living in Sydney recently and the local craft beers there are really good – have a look at 4 Pines – their pilsner is superb or Young Henrys which offers a great selection of different types of beer and finally Willie the Boatman. There are also great craft beers from around Australia that have already made their way over here – the most obvious are Little Creatures (Pale Ale) and Coopers (Sparkling Ale) but both breweries have a far wider selection which is worth looking at – especially Little Creatures who do Pilsner and Bright Ale.

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Colin,

      Thanks for your message.
      Yes the supermarkets are no fools, that’s for sure!
      The good thing about where we sit is the fact that we don’t require quite such massive loads of stock of any given beer, meaning that we aren’t too big for some of the smaller breweries to supply. This means that we can offer unique beers which you won’t also find on the shelf of every supermarket in the UK.

      Australia and NZ have an incredible beer scene. At the moment, I am keen to keep things UK based because a big issue (especially with hop influenced beers) is freshness. As we start to get a beer offering off the ground, I want to be able to ensure that we are selling beers as fresh as possible and the best way to do that while we start to build a bit of a beer following is by sourcing things from a little closer to home.

      That’s not to say though that once the ball is well and truly rolling in a little while we wouldn’t be able to stick some beers on with a wine shipment once in a while!

      Very best wishes,

      Freddy

  5. Peter Evans says:

    Whitbreads closed Stroud Brewery, but craft beer under the old name is now available, better still ,creating enthusiasm. I drank it last in a Saturday crowd of couples, families with children and a dog or two, convivially on benches in a hub-hub of talk at trestle tables – a mediaeval invention. It can be bought in quart jugs and drunk with pizzas of your choice, made from crafted flour cooked over a wood fire and tossed before your eyes – sumptuous and light. One brew is named after Budding, a worker in the village in a local cloth mill who adapted a machine and made the world’s first lawnmower. Buddings were still there when I lived locally… All very traditional and authentic, true to itself,

  6. Bruce says:

    Great move. I’m a big fan of so many beers and to get them from the society would be awesome.
    Marble Brewery, lagonda or earl grey ipa in Manchester [http://www.marblebeers.com/shop/] are two stand out beers, and;
    Knops Beer (Siba award winning) [http://www.knopsbeer.co.uk/], Black Cork or east coast pale, brewed near Edinburgh are also great beers.

    There are so many breweries producing world class excellent beer that can’t always be found around. Please think about adding some of these!

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Bruce,

      Yes a few beers in with the wine order is a nice way of doing things!
      I will keep those ones in mind. You are right, there is so much world class beer about now that we are almost spoilt for choice. It’s just about finding the best of the best!

      Many thanks,

      Freddy

  7. Dominic Hamilton says:

    Love the idea of buying beers which match the Society’s wine buying ethos! I’d put in a good word for the superb Batham’s (bathams.co.uk) which is hard to find consistently anywhere outside their native Midlands.

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Dominic,

      Yes totally, the exact same ethos applies. It’s all about quality first and foremost and finding those brilliant “artisan” producers who are genuinely producing wine or beer with passion and love for what they do.

      I hope you enjoy the range as it develops and grows over time.

      Very best wishes,

      Freddy

  8. Christopher W Ide says:

    I still adore Worthington’s White Shield!
    Bw
    Chris

  9. Nick Munton says:

    Great idea! Could I put in a request for some dark beers please? Favourites of mine are Titanic Brewery’s Plum Porter and, from further afield, Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout. Cheers!

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Nick,

      You certainly can. I am a sucker for a darker beer. The Railway Porter which we currently have is a really superb darker beer. For me I think it has a superb mouth-feel for something which isn’t packed with alcohol. I often like to sup a 10-11% porter on an evening and they tend to have an incredible texture. This comes close to that silky feel while being under 5% – super!

      Cheers to you too!

      Freddy

  10. David Barnes says:

    Don’t need to roam farr and wide for Craft beer, it’s brewed just a few miles down the road in Wheathampstead, great tasting beer “Farr Brew” hits the spot,
    Give it a try as well.

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the recommendation!
      I will look into that, as it’s great to be able to make sure the beer we have on offer is as fresh as possible.

      All the best,

      Freddy

  11. Troels says:

    Hi Freddy

    Great initiative. Increasingly a great fan of Adnams who seem to have no constraints on exploring the craft. E.g. Dry hopped lager, wild hop beer (based on Suffolk locals annual hedgerow collections), a Belgian style triple in a 33cl bottle (genius!) and the wonderful “broadside” dark ale that they also distill into a whiskey! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Best wishes Troels

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Troels,

      I was away in Suffolk for a weekend break a couple of weeks ago and so made sure to sample plenty of Adnams! A good, sturdy brewery with tasty brews.

      All the best,

      Freddy

  12. John Clancy says:

    Hello Freddy.

    I was delighted to read of your new venture. I’ve had mixed experiences when ordering beer by mail order so it will be great to get ales from a reliable source.

    Beers from the Stone Brewery in Berlin are truly exceptional. Their range specialises in IPAs but they do an outstanding stout called Xocoveza.

    Regards,

    Johnny.

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi John,

      Yes there are a number of mail order beer places around but many seem to get mixed reviews. We’ve been doing it with wine for 143 years now so hope to apply the expertise to beer too!

      Cheers!

      Freddy

  13. Tom Fleming says:

    Hi Freddy

    Browsing your latest craft beer arrivals I can’t help but notice a particular predisposition towards London beers (with the token exception of Edinburgh’s Harviestoun ale, and an alcohol-free contribution).

    I have to confess that is very disappointing as I certainly don’t feel that London breweries; fine though SOME of their ales are, give a good representation of the wide variety of fine ales crafted across the UK.

    Any reason for this particularly ‘parochial’ approach?

    Regards

    Tom

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Tom,

      Well spotted and yes there is a reason why this is the case.
      As craft beer is relatively new to us at The Wine Society (other than the odd mixed case around Christmas times for example) we had absolutely no idea how well it would go down. We wanted to stay local to us with this first offering, as it means that we don’t have to commit to masses of stock and we can quickly and easily get a top-up delivery should we need to, meaning it stays as fresh as possible.
      The good thing is that it seems to be very well received, which gives us the opportunity to branch out a bit more with coming offerings. I am very aware that the scene is thriving all over the UK, not just in London, so I am very excited to be able to showcase the beers from breweries in lots of different counties!

      Harviestoun is in there because I just think Bitter & Twisted is a great beer and despite them being north of the border, they have an excellent set up and we can easily get a new delivery of their beer very quickly.

      Things will only get more exciting so do stay tuned in!

      Many thanks,

      Freddy

  14. Chris Corcoran says:

    Really looking forward to trying some of your beer selections. I can recommend Northern Monk Brewery https://www.northernmonkbrewco.com/ Their range is excellent with a fantastic range including some award winning beers

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Chris,

      I love Northern Monk beers and am in contact with them at the moment with the hope of doing something with them later in the year. Keep an eye out around late summer!

      Very best,

      Freddy

  15. Mike MacNeill says:

    Hello Freddie
    I envy your task at hand. I travel about a bit and try to drop into micro breweries themselves where posible.
    More locally in Herts, Red Squirrel brewery has a good range and interesting variations (Black No.1 being my favourite) and The New River brewery has just started bottling their Five Inch Drop, a hoppy (but not too) IPA. Slightly further afield, Andwells’ (Hants) Ruddy Darter, Dartford Wobbler from Kent, a dry finish bitter and Wolf Brewery’s (Norfolk) Granny Wouldn’t Like It (dark) are all beers I’ll happily take a diversion for. The Marlow Brewery (Bucks) has dome really good beers but only a couple are bottled. Last week I was in Yorkshire and thought that Bradfield Brewery’s Farmers Belgian Blue was the best beer (smooth and creamy) I’d tasted in some time.
    Good luck.
    Mike.

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Mike,

      Blimey you’ve been doing your homework! Super stuff!
      It’s great to get to the breweries themselves, as it’s the only way to see first hand how much care and attention the brewers put in to the product.
      It’s a tough job eh!

      Very many thanks for your well-wishes.

      Cheers,

      Freddy

  16. John Elliot says:

    To the many other recommendations I’d add Five Points Brewing in Hackney. They have a range of delicious beers, my favourite being their Pale Ale.

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi John,

      We have got one of the Five Points beers available now! The Railway Porter is superb and of their range I thought made a great addition especially when the weather is a bit cold an grey – nothing like a delicious porter to drink on a chilly evening.

      Very many thanks,

      Freddy

  17. Paul Silcocks says:

    There’s a local brewery in Newport Gwent called Tiny Rebel , they brew some fantastic ales .

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Paul,

      Tiny Rebel are excellent and produce great beer – I’ve been very impressed with the ones I have tried before.

      Very good recommendation indeed!

      Freddy

  18. Willie McCurdy says:

    Hi Freddy,

    In Northern Ireland in the past 3 years there has been huge growth in quality craft beer production, both in the number of breweries and the range of superb quality beers produced. The links between good food and good beer are growing too, perhaps a legacy of the farm origin of many of these breweries. I prefer ales and porters, but everyone has their own favourites. The ‘CAMRA Northern Ireland’ page is a good place to start, but you may wish to come over and check things out for yourself, before considering what beers the Society might stock. The following are some of my favourite beers and brewers.

    Brewbot. Mad inventors, alternative brewery, pub of the future or superheroes – you decide. They have invented the Brewbot microbrewry unit that uses sensor technology to track and automate the brewing process and is controlled by a wi-fi App. Their pub is supplied by its own Brewbots.
    Whitewater Brewery in the Mourne mountains. An excellent range of award winning beers with a new bigger brewery also nearing completion. My favourites are Maggie’s Leap and Hopplehammer.
    Hillstown brewery was born from the need to produce beer for the farm’s beer-fed beef. The beers are so good, humans love them too and the range includes Goats Butt Wheat Beer and Horny Bull Stout. They also sell the afforadble beer-fed beef.
    Glens of Antrim Ales I like the Fairhead Gold 4.8%. A brewery quite literally on the edge. Sloping fields with cliffs at the bottom and dramatic views of the Mull of Kintyre, Rathlin Island and beyond if the weather is kind to you. A good head for heights is recommended if you approach the brewery from the Cushendun end of the Torr Head Scenic Route.
    Lacada Brewery Coperative a community owned Co-Operative brewery with amazing label art and a diverse range of brews including sours. A few brews are cask only, so you will have to visit Portrush and the famous North Coast with its dramatic scenery. I like Stranded Bunny 4.5% (porter), from the part of their range available in 330ml bottles.

    For me the outstanding innovators of today are the Farmageddon Brewing Coop. Baltic Porter matured in Echlinville whiskey casks (this distillery near the brewery, is perhaps better known to some as the producer of Jawbox Gin), growing hops at 54.5 degrees north for their amazing Wet Hop IPA, Their range of single hop IPAs, especially Mosaic – voted the best brew at the 2016 Belfast beer festival, excellent Porter, cooperative brews etc. I look forward to the pork from their pigs fed on the spent mash. They justly get rave reviews and their wares were on display at the BBC Good Food show Birmingham 2016. Farmageddon’s slogan is “It May Be Cloudy – Harden Up – It’s Craft Beer”, but I condition my beers upright in a cool cupboard for 4-6 weeks before moving them to the fridge. You then have the option of clear or cloudy.

    N.B. Some health benefits are often claimed for red wine, but did you know that when consummed as part of a well balanced diet, craft brewed IPAs can help maintain bone density. See ‘Silicon in beer and brewing’. Troy R Casey and Charles W Bamforth. Published online in Wiley Interscience: 8 February 2010. I look forward to craft brewed IPAs with extra lautering for maximum dietary silicon content.

    Regards
    Willie McCurdy

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Willie,

      Thank you very much for your kind and well thought-out message. There are some exciting beers cropping up in Northern Ireland and we don’t see a huge amount here. You are right that the best way to truly understand a brewery and it’s beers is to visit.

      I shall investigate some of your recommendations in the future and I had a good laugh at “Horny Bull Stout”, a brilliant name for a beer (although I’m not sure how appetising it sounds!)

      All the very best and thank you again,

      Freddy

      • Willie McCurdy says:

        Apparently Japanese wagyu bulls have very pointy horns, although this farm brewery seems to also market a range beer-fed dairy shorthorn steaks. Perhaps Wagyu horns provide better marketing potential. The mystery remains.

        Willie

  19. Joyce Jordan says:

    Woodfordes Brewery at Woodbastwick in the Norfolk Broads is a favourite of mine.
    That first pint of Wherry after picking up the boat for our annual Broads holiday goes down a treat!

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Joyce,

      Thank you very much. It seems like a few people have mentioned Woodfordes so I must investigate!

      All the best,

      Freddy

  20. Jwsr says:

    Otter brewery in Devon makes some of the most consistently lovely bottled beer around – and it’s even nicer out of the cask.

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Yes beer straight from the cask is often unbeatable! Our poor Wine Society drivers wouldn’t fancy lugging too many of those around though I bet ;)

      Freddy

  21. Peter Halsey says:

    I have just discovered Black Isle Organic Blonde a lovely beer.

  22. Ken MacArthur says:

    Another from Scotland is Fyne Ales from Argyll. Great range with Jarl being one of my favourites.

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Thanks Ken, sounds like there really is lots of fantastic beer being made in Scotland at the moment. The ones I have tried have been super anyway!

      Cheers,

      Freddy

  23. Peter Goodeve says:

    Freddy Look at the Little Beer Corporation they have some unusual beers. A favourite of mine the 1917 Imperial Pilsner created around a yeast last used commercially in St Petersburg. They are trying out cans too.

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi Peter,

      Thank you. That sounds interesting and there is a lot to be said for cans. I personally think they are the best way to preserve a beer so it’s good to see more breweries using them.

      Very best,

      Freddy

  24. JP says:

    Like the sound of this – will you be extending it to include Belgian Abbey beers like Orval and Westmalle?

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi JP,

      I am a real fan of the Belgian Abbey beers so personally I would love to one day. We just need to see how things go in these early days first and then we will be able to build the offering from there.

      Cheers!

      Freddy

  25. John Scott says:

    There are lots of good breweries everywhere, come to Bristol and visit Moor, Bristol Beer Factory and Arbor for a good selection in this city.

    • Freddy Bulmer says:

      Hi John,

      You’re right, there are a lot of good breweries everywhere!
      A friend who works in the beer industry was saying that he thinks Bristol is a particularly exciting place to watch at the moment. Lost & Grounded are a newish one in Bristol and they are also great. Bristol Beer Factory have been great, the ones I have tried anyway. I will have to look into Moor and Arbor.

      Many thanks

  26. Tim Usher says:

    “Born in the Borders” brewery at Lanton Mill near Jedburgh has as fine a range of bottled and draught beers as i have ever met. “Game Bird”and Foxy Blond” being the originals with “Dark Horse” as the darker brew which won first prize in its class in Scotland last year and second prize in England. Four years ago when it started, a big working mens’ pub in Hawick ordered a second cask two days after the first one and when the owner/brewer delivered it, the barman took him into the bar and said “This is John. He brews the stuff”. The assembled crowd put down their pints and rushed to shake his hand. Similar reactions have been experienced ever since from those meeting these ales for the first time. I rest my case.

  27. Paul McCarroll says:

    Gentleman’s Wit from the Camden Brewery. Splendid name and really very enjoyable on a summer’s evening.

    In fact all the Camden Brewery beers are delightful. The IPA is packed with happy hopiness.

  28. Julian Lobley says:

    I’d suggest Kingstone Brewery just outside Tintern. They have a great range of beers from which “Classic” is my perennial favourite while their “Gold” is superb as a chilled summer ale. You’ve got a tough job on your hands but I suppose somebody’s got to do it!

    Cheers!

  29. Stephanie McKeown says:

    Can I put in a word for the Liverpool Craft Beer Company? Especially their Love Lane and Quokka. I’m also a fan of Thornbridge, Salopian, Wiper and True, and Red Willow’s Wreckless pale ale. I agree with the people who’ve already recommended Tiny Rebel, Fyne Ales and Five Points, and I’d add Kinnegar to the list from Ireland. One other thing that would be great is a couple of drinkable gluten-free beers. So not many then . . .

  30. Mark Thomas says:

    Hi Freddy,

    Definitely worth a shout for Thornbridge brewery who produce Jaipur, which arguably kicked off the craft explosion. Their brewery has a wealth of weird and wonderful experimentation beers, including a warehouse of beers ageing in wine/whisky/champagne/you name it casks. They’re also lovely people! Brilliant to see the Society dipping into this a bit more and hope it reveals some cracking finds.

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