What makes the city you like in like nowhere else?
There may be some overlap, obviously the people and their influence on a city's make up, then there's the geography, links to transport nodes, weather and other environmental factors (water chemistry and quality for one). These may be the more holistic answers you'll get, but what about the same questions, but in terms of a local beer and brewing scene? Does each major UK city really have a distinct identity that sets it apart from the others? Each city now, does have festivals that punctuate the calendar of many ardent beer enthusiasts; equally they have some stand out bars or pubs along with one or a few 'headline' breweries.
With the rise of 'beer tourism' (heading to a city for a week trip to try out it's most prominent drinking establishments, taking in heritage pubs and brewery tours in along the way, along with the obligatory feed) it means that social media and blogs across the internet are awash with articles and posts signalling that we are away for a weekend and indulging in locally brewed beers which might normally not reach other parts of the UK. The rise in popularity of certain types of festivals has been interesting, with some giving validation, that certain cities with rich heritage and a population to sustain such a venture, to the notion of a beer week. Having visited many of these cities myself, wandering the bars and searching out local beers which I do not normally get on Merseyside, each does have its own charm and hotspots - but does that mean each city has a unique outlook on beer, something 'je ne sais quoi' when it comes to providing for indigenous drinkers and tourist visitors alike? It's not a question with a straightforward answer or a straightforward argument to be made either way. The best approach I could render was to ask several bloggers, beer enthusiasts, writers and brewers to sum up in some of their own words what makes their back yard so different from other cities; does an intrinsic facet to their beer scene make it reverberate above in what is a pretty noisy background?
Consider the brewing heritage of Germany. A country that has some entrenched attitudes towards beer and brewing (see the Reinheitsgebot for example, effectively eliminating adjunct brews from being classified as 'beer'), but it also have some distinct behaviours and brewing habits attached regionally. Traditions are a given, from Kolsch in Cologne, sour and cloudy Berlinner Weiss in Berlin, Gose from Leipzig and the Helles and Weizen brewed in Bavaria, there is some strong identity within cities and regions in terms of their heritage. On the face of it, the UK by comparison is much less orderly, with Burton upon Trent being heavily associated with brewing and associated with hoppier ales due to it's access to an amenable water chemistry, whilst London has a fairly strong link to brewing Porter ales, beyond this the scene and heritage seems to be pretty well mixed, even moreso following the last decade's influence on UK scene from across the Atlantic.
Before we get down into the detail, ever so kindly provided by contributors, I do have a caveat - I have asked for contributions from some of the more prominent cities around the UK; there may be some gaps, but please do not take that as a snub. This article is not meant to be a compendium to cover every corner of the UK and more of a manageable piece of musing from myself with aid from others! If you wish to fire thoughts on your hometown onto the readership, please drop a comment in below. It would be good to hear additional thoughts.
First up, We head to the midlands and to Birmingham, a city not often spoken about as a conventional beer destination, but maybe some words from Midlands Beer Blog contributor, Catherine Webber will change that for you:
“I moved to Birmingham 12 years ago and the beer landscape has changed beyond all recognition in that time. The big change came here, I think, with the opening of Brew Dog. That was 2012…..
Since then we’ve seen an exponential rise in bars in the city and surrounding areas serving great beers as well as bottle shops and breweries.
I often hear people talk or see comments on social media that Birmingham is the poor relation of some other UK cities and that there’s nothing to come here for. I couldn’t disagree more. Yes we might not have a high concentration of bars all within spitting distance of each other as some places do but we have quality here and unique spaces like Tilt (pinball anyone?) and Clink (yes it really did used to be a custard factory). We have cosy places like Cherry Reds (what’s better than beer and rainbow cake?!) and we have great, award winning, breweries like Burning Soul (they won the Thirsty Games at last year’s Indy Man, plus Rate Beers’ Best New Brewery in the West Midlands).
We’re seeing new breweries opening all the time in the last few years, as well as Burning Soul, we’ve gained Birmingham Brewery, Moseley Beer Co, GlassHouse Beer Co and more. Talking of GlassHouse they too plan to open a tap room this year which will make for a great addition to the Strichley Beer Mile, which consists of Cotteridge Wines, Stirchley Wines, Birmingham Brewery, Wild Cat and GlassHouse - all a short train or bus ride from the city centre. Sounds like a perfect Saturday afternoon to me!
For those wanting to go outside the city centre Harborne is getting a great beer scene too with the addition of both The Paper Duck (owned by the guys behind Clink) and The Hop Garden. You can even take a shot hop on the train and visit both Fixed Wheel (Rowley Regis) and Green Duck (Stourbridge Junction) on the same train line both of which have excellent tap rooms with regular guest beers and festivals.
I think this is what makes our city a little bit different, we may not have the high concentration of bars in the city centre like some other places but we have these unique and different enclaves within and around the city allowing people to visit a number of places in a day and sample a great range of different beers both from the source and the wider world. We also don’t seem to shout about what we have as much as other cities, whether this is because we are slowly building up our repertoire or because we don’t want everyone discovering our hidden gems I don’t know. But as our profile increases with more festivals (Birmingham Beer Week, Cotteridge Wines’ Birthday and Lock & Key this year alone) and more publicity for our breweries I think Birmingham is going to be a big hitter in the UK beer scene.
Of course there is room for more, I feel we could do with more good beer and food places (or for existing food places to do better beer) but I think our new openings this year will help with that. I also think a bottle shop near the station would be a great addition – doesn’t everyone love a train beer? It also does seem a shame we didn’t get a ‘Birmingham Tap’ when the station was revamped – still Cherry Red’s, Bonehead and Brew Dog are only 2 minutes away. Our community may not be big but as Shakespeare said; “and though she be little she is fierce” - we are slowly getting better at shouting about our city, its bars, bottle shops, festivals and breweries! So look out UK beer scene the Brummy Bull is coming for you!”
You can follow Catherine on: [https://twitter.com/cathw1901]
Photos courtesy (and copyright) of Catherine Webber.
Taking the reins for Edinburgh, we have the Bottle Baroness herself, Robyn who runs a fine establishment with her other half, selling beers to the denizens of Edinburgh:
Despite my living in Edinburgh for over 10 years now, I can firmly say that I think it’s one of the most wonderful cities in the world. I’ve by no means seen all there is to offer in the UK, but I’ve seen enough to know my preference for this city, both in terms of living and what it has to offer. Edinburgh has a unique layout, winding streets and closes meet modern architecture in a harmonious way that’s quite particular to this bit of rock. One thing that is always noted when we have visitors is its ease of access. You really can walk from one end to the other and find an abundance of beer related activities within the city limits. Not too big, not too small. Just right. There’s no need to get two trains, a taxi and walk ten minutes in order to reach your favourite haunt.
There’s no need to cut your night short because you have to catch your last train home. You can roll into a taxi at any time of the night and be home within 10 minutes. When asked about where to go for good beer in Edinburgh, there really is no shortage of excellent stops along the way. Every hot spot is within 5-10 minutes walking distance of another and with our near perfect transport system, the journey can’t be made any easier. This is by far, the most notable thing about the beer scene within Edinburgh; the accessibility. In all my years of living and working here, never have I heard of someone having a bad experience during their visit. It’s easy to take for granted what a wonderful place this is when you’ve been here for some time, so I always aim to look at it from another’s point of view.
You can follow Robyn here: [https://twitter.com/Bottle_Baroness]
Photos courtesy (and copyright) of Bottle Baron/The ElectroKemist
Rob Pickering (Robsterowski) kindly provided his thoughts on what makes Glasgow different:
“Off the top of my head there are three things that strike me in distinguishing the Glasgow beer scene. They are all related too, though they might not seem to do so at first.
The first is the complete dominance of Tennent's Lager. It is everywhere. I suppose at least it is local!
It’s a standard lager and tastes better than some other standard lagers, there isn’t a great deal more you can say about it. I do have a soft spot for Tennent’s: they’ve been around for a very long time and it would be a shame if they vanished from our scene. That said I would quite like to see Tennent’s make more of their 400-odd years of heritage.
In Glasgow, I find many of the places with the most interesting beer (not to single any one place out above others) don’t have much atmosphere, which is a shame; losing quality in one aspect to gain another is disappointing. In the 1960s we actually lost a lot of handsome pubs during the slum clearances and I do wonder whether this might be part of the reason for the situation the city now finds itself in.
I would say the most needed improvement would be to get better beer into the nice pubs…”
You can follow Rob here: [https://twitter.com/robsterowski]
Photos courtesy (and copyright) of Robbie Pickering, Gaynor Doyle and Kirsty Morgan
Luckily, I was able to get two contributions on the city of Leeds and given it’s prominence in the North and rich brewing heritage, it is only fair; we have contributions from Simon Girt (Leeds Beer Wolf) and Gareth (BarrelagedLeeds).
“There is always an argument between Manchester and Leeds as to who is the best beer city in the North and each does have its own case, however, Leeds is one of the best beer cities in the UK for various reasons. Manchester may have the breweries, but for me Leeds has the edge with its bars and pubs.
Leeds is so easy to navigate and get around; it will only take you a 30-minute walk to get from the most Southern beery destination (Northern Monk) to the most Northern beery destination (North Brew Co). Most other cities, you will probably need to get a tram, a tube or a taxi to get from one place to the next.
With over 180 pubs and bars in squeezed in to the city centre, the range of types of venues to drink in is huge. Admittedly, most of these do not appeal to myself, or to the modern day drinker; but variety is the spice of life I guess!
It is well documented that the first 'craft beer' bar opened in Leeds, in North Bar. They opened their doors back in 1997, The Reliance followed three years later, flogging beers with a great food menu to match their beer list.
You can follow Simon here: [https://twitter.com/LeedsBeerWolf]
Gareth posited that:
“The main uniqueness of Leeds’ beer scene is its ability to innovate and reinvent. Not only is the city one of the cradles of modern beer bars thanks to North Bar and its subsequent successes, it also has some grand, ornate pubs that operate within the same sphere of influence. Neither the older nor the newer players are the sort of businesses to rest on their laurels, however – they export great ideas to other cities, open their own brewery offshoots, and invest their profits in nurturing local creatives and community driven projects.
I’m proud that Leeds has a reputation as one of the must-visit cities across the UK, and gradually further afield, thanks in no small part to the local organisers, drinkers and enthusiasts who are keen to share what we have to offer and to attract the world’s drinkers and brewers to Yorkshire. With three or four major city-centre beer festivals scheduled for this year, plus a number of smaller and newer ones, there’s plenty of reasons to book repeat visits.
You can follow Gareth here: [https://twitter.com/barrelagedleeds]
Photos courtesy (and copyright) of Simon Girt (Leeds Beer Wolf).
Sadly, I’ve not found there to be too many writers available in my home city of Liverpool (though the other writer that I was looking forward to using – as her output is very good – has managed to damage herself and not be available to contribute), so you’re stuck with me, Pedro:
“Liverpool as a city has always had a bit of a different attitude in most things compared to the rest of the UK, this in part has been to a number of things; the burden of former importance, the hostility and prejudice directed onto the city, some defensiveness borne of that projection and being an outward looking port city all have played their part. Oddly though, for a city that historically was a major gateway to the rest of the world to the UK and Europe from the New World, it does not seem to have the rich brewing heritage of some of its northern counterparts. In part, what has been accomplished recently has been built from scratch with no little talent and passion.
This disjointedness is in part what makes the character of the Liverpool beer scene. It is a scene that has been quite volatile at its best; each of the city’s biggest breweries over the last few decades have made a mark, only to fall away; see Cain’s and more recently Liverpool Organic, who were in a great position to make the most of the craft beer boom from 2012 to recently, but a reluctance to participate in the ‘craft’ boom, sticking to tried and tested cask brews saw them falling away instead as competition increased.
The city has and continues making some solid cask beers all the way through to bizarre and experimental IPAs, barrel aged porters and mental sours. But Mad Hatter Brewing aside, there isn’t a brewery that stands out as a major city player in the way that Cloudwater, Magic Rock, Northern Monk, Beavertown or Wylam does.
Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing as variety is a hallmark of an interesting scene, in some ways it does feel as though it is a watershed moment where one or two breweries could possibly step forward to prominence in the next year.
The pubs are another matter for Liverpool – for a city that can be quite diverse in some matters, hungry for art and new experiences and given its cisternal past, it is oddly devoid of the thirst for great beers by the majority of the populous (though perhaps not something limited to just Liverpool I suspect!).
There are great pubs in Liverpool and a handful of excellent taps and craft beer bars, the likes of Dead Crafty, Ship and Mitre, The Grapes and Black Lodge are backed up by a bedrock of a few older city centre pubs still providing good cask options such as the Belvedere, the Lion and Roscoe Head, not to mention a new wave of bars and taps over the last year in the form of the H1780 Tap and Still, Glen Affric Tap, Craft Minded, Handyman Pub and Brewery, Gibberish and Craft Taproom. All these places are quite close too, a quick bus journey to Smithdown Road just beyond the city centre or a train under the Mersey will take you to the outreaches, whilst everything else is within walking distance of each other. The Northern line provides quite a good corridor for micropubs too, taking in Crosby, Formby, Freshfield up to Southport to the excellent Tap and Bottles. There is plenty of space to be exploited in the city, plenty of unusual spaces to be exploited, but again it just feels like there is veil or an erratic nature to the whole scene where things could change at any moment.
You know where to follow me!
Very kindly, PJ McKerry and Rebecca Pate have stepped up to cover our nation’s capital city; no meanfeat given the geography and scope I am sure you’d agree.
First up, is Rebecca;
“Looking at East London specifically, we have a wonderful co-existence of traditional boozers and contemporary taprooms. With the enduring popularity of craft beer and evolving tastes of drinkers, Hackney has plenty of authentic neighbourhood pubs contented to stock local breweries. I must mention The Cock Tavern, a local institution that carries a keg selection to rival any modern craft beer bar in addition to their first-rate cask line-ups – and if you haven’t been to The Cock, it has a uniquely dingy charm that taprooms just can’t replicate. I recently drank in The Hare, again in Hackney, which is distinctly the type of place I wouldn’t normally visit based on my personal ‘if I can’t see through the windows, I’m not going in’ mantra. But they had Beavertown’s Neck Oil and Five Points Pale on keg comfortably sitting next to Timothy Taylor’s Landlord on cask and a pub cat, so I was swayed.
Aside from the boozers, Hackney Wick boasts the on-trend craft beer destinations, such as Crate Brewery, Howling Hops, Mason & Company and now the Beer Merchants Tap Room, all clustered across a small radius. There’s also the original Mother Kelly’s site in Bethnal Green, which was my first taste of a New York style taproom. Expect industrial-chic in abundance alongside your 3/4rd of beer in most of the aforementioned venues. This is indicative of an area of London that’s balancing the new with the old; traditional pubs are offering cask, for instance, but don’t expect to see a hand pull in a taproom. The ecosystem of drinking establishments in East London is probably reflective of what is happening everywhere – I was in Cambridge last weekend and drank across the dichotomy of traditional pubs, flashy craft beer bars and tiny brewery taprooms, all within walking distance of each other. But the lack of choice when it comes to cask beer (particularly cask that’s kept and served appropriately) is felt in East London as much as it is in the rest of the city.
London has obviously played a fundamental role in rise of craft beer thanks to areas like Bermondsey and breweries like The Kernel, who excel in making no-fuss, consistently outstanding beer. Enter Beavertown, with their highly distinctive branding and hop-forward beers. The popularity of Gamma Ray goes even beyond UK shores and I’ve been asked to bring cans over to Canada by friends. So while these breweries certainly weren’t the first to brew modern, flavoursome beers, their versions of US styles really resonated with drinkers across the UK. It’s not all about hops, of course, but these APAs and IPAs have converted premium lager drinkers and have also appealed to different (younger, wider) demographics.
London offers plenty of destinations for a manageable beer pilgrimage these days, from the Bermondsey Beer Mile to Tottenham and, of course, Hackney Wick. I firmly believe that nothing beats drinking fresh beer underneath a railway arch inside a crowded brewhouse. It feels intimate and personal. With over 100 breweries alone – notwithstanding the craft beer bars popping up in every neighbourhood – there’s a lot to see in London, but I would advise visitors to do some due diligence to avoid the overcrowded taprooms of the more popular breweries. Some breweries have thrown a lot of money into shiny new spaces, which are fantastic for events, but my love of drinking at clumsily positioned communal beer tables within eyeshot of a fermenter tank will never wane. That’s perhaps the most authentic experience of craft beer in London that you can get (and if it’s raining, consider this the premium experience).”
You can follow Rebecca, here: [https://twitter.com/rpate]
“What makes London unique as a beer city? Well, in the UK context it's its size and composition. London can be regarded as a series of villages, each one with its own sense of identity. I've always lived in the east or north of the city and was based in Stoke Newington, a somewhat bourgeois enclave of Hackney, for many years. I embraced my adopted community and was on particularly good terms with the proprietors of my local off-licence, boozer, and kebab shop. I was primarily a drinker of Guinness and bland lager and only beginning to explore cask when the British brewing renaissance (™) began in earnest. It was an exciting time with Pressure Drop, Beavertown and Five Points et al all beginning to assert themselves and attain local shelf space. That these breweries producing punchy, flavourful beers were all based in my neighbourhood was amazing to me, and I'm sure others have similar testimonies from elsewhere in the capital.
Fast forward to the present day and my current home, which is Hornsey in north London (literally referred to as Hornsey Village, albeit mostly by estate agents). My local, a mere five-minute walk away, is the Fuller's-owned Great Northern Railway Tavern, which boasts twenty taps from the country's finest breweries. I also live within walking distance of the triumvirate of Small Beer, The Prince and The Duke's Head, all owned by the same small company, and each one among the best beer pubs in London.
The capital boasts 110 breweries (at the time of writing), a number that is a testament to its size. It has it all: from the UK's first dedicated tank bar (Howling Hops) to regular tap takeovers of a major cultural institution and even a nascent a lambic blendery. So could London be improved as a beer city? Well, the issues that hold it back are the same issues that affect the entire country: cold storage and transportation, the treatment of cask ale and most importantly the lack of diversity. However, as a beer city measured against all others, I personally believe that in a UK context London is as good as it gets.”
You can follow Peter McKerry, here: [https://twitter.com/PeterMcKerry]
Photos courtesy (and copyright) of Rebecca Pate.
Taking the reins for the Manchester entry is Connor Murphy, the man who has put together Manchester Beer Week:
“I believe Manchester acts as an intersection between history and innovation in a way no other city in the UK can match. In the Greater Manchester area, we are in the unique position of having four family brewers still plying their trade, the oldest of which was founded in 1828. This is a situation that isn't replicated anywhere else because so many of the UK's traditional family breweries either ceased trading or were swallowed up by bigger breweries during the spate of mergers in the mid-20th century. So this has provided the city's beer scene with a historical reference point and, perhaps more importantly, has ensured the cask beer tradition stayed alive among drinkers. I, like many people who grew up in Manchester, gained my introduction to beer through pubs owned by the four family breweries, so this provided a grounding in cask beer that acted as a starting point for me to explore the craft of brewing in a bit more depth than most people. But while Manchester has always paid healthy respect to the innovators, a desire to be positioned at the cutting edge is also a common cultural thread in this city. The people of this city have always liked to think they do things differently - Tony Wilson famously said words to that effect - so it seems to make sense that many modern breweries have thrived here, using the platform laid by the family brewers but exploring new ideas and increasingly pushing the boundaries.
On a practical level, the great thing about Manchester is that it has a huge concentration of breweries - there are almost 80 in Greater Manchester now. So, while cities like Leeds might be able to rival Manchester in terms of pubs and bars, we have a brewery tap scene that is hard to beat. Blackjack started the trend by putting on some great parties at their brewtap, but now you have another five that open regularly within a radius of a couple of miles. And in terms of its pubs and bars, Manchester has a really impressive blend of the iconic, the traditional and the modern. I really don't think any other city has such a quality mix within an area that's easily traversable by foot.
But Manchester's restaurant scene still seems quite risk averse when it comes to beer - they either don't know how to approach changing their beer offering or are unwilling to break from established practice. Given the amount of superb beer being brewed on our doorstep, it seems ridiculous that restaurants don't put the same thought into their selection as they do the ingredients in their food.”
You can follow Connor here: [https://twitter.com/likethemurphys]
Photos copyright The ElectroKemist.
This section on Newcastle is being described by Daisy Turnell, who not only works for Head of Steam in their marketing department, but also runs Craft Beer Newcastle (an independent guide to bars, bottle shops and events the city):
So, what is it that makes Newcastle a unique beer city compared to the rest of the UK? Hmm... that’s a tricky one to answer, but I like a challenge so I’ll give it a go. I put it down to the great balance of three main factors; places, people, and pride.
First up - places. From the moment you step off the train at Central Station, you’re seconds away from an eclectic mix of pubs and bars; The Box Social, Head of Steam*, Town Wall, Tilleys Bar... the list goes on. Wander up into town (Lady Greys, dAT Bar, Bierrex), down to the Quayside (Crown Posada, The Bridge Tavern, Red House), or up to the Haymarket (Town Mouse Ale House, Mean Eyed Cat), and there is always an array of options for a great pint. And I’ve not even mentioned the two things that probably get the biggest wow from newcomers to the area; Wylam Brewery’s new home, and the Ouseburn. Ah, the Ouseburn. Lovely, lovely Ouseburn. Free from the madness of a city centre, and all within staggering distance of each other are a group of pubs, which have my heart. You ask why? It’s the unpretentious mix of great beer and people, cosy pints and folk music on tap at The Cumberland Arms, watching bands with a great beer in hand at The Cluny (the best independent live music venue in the UK. Don’t argue – I’m right on this one), and drinks with friends in the (albeit rare) Newcastle sunshine in the beer garden at The Free Trade Inn. I must have a hundred photos of the view of the Tyne from there, but it still doesn’t stop me feeling like it’s the first time I’ve really appreciated it every time I’m there. Nostalgia overload, people. Moving on, the nostalgic old merges with the exciting new in the city in a way that seems quite unique to the UK beer scene; the Wylam Brewery cask beers I poured when I worked behind the bar back in the early noughties still exist today, and is now complemented with the 2.0 version keg and cans, and the most stunning brewery location in the UK (again, don’t argue – it is). Brewery-wise, there’s a fantastic range for a city this size (alongside Wylam there’s Almasty, Anarchy, Box Social, Errant, Mordue, Northern Alchemy, Tyne Bank, Brinkburn Street and many others).
Did I mention there’s also a brewery inside Newcastle University? Nope? Step forward, StuBrew. There are so many more to mention, but time to move on to something relatively new – bottle shops. Pretty much every key area of the city and surrounding areas now benefit from having a great bottle shop, usually run by people who know and really love their beer, and always go that extra mile to help customers at every stage of their beer journey. Block & Bottle, Champion Bottles & Taps, Coppers/Hop Secret, Nord, CentrAle, Rehills, Yard House... we really are spoiled here (especially me, as I happen to live 2 streets away from one of those).
Next up – the people. As I type this, there’s a Manchester Brewery Weekend happening at The Free Trade Inn, which is frequented by pretty much everyone I know who loves beer in Newcastle.
Before you feel sorry for me staying home, or pick up on a #FOMO, the great thing about Newcastle is that there are always so many events happening you don’t mind missing the odd one (although that Wander Beyond Mini Milkshake IPA on cask was calling me to try it. Next time, my precious, next time). Going along to any beer event solo never feels daunting (something which can be the case in other cities I’ve visited), as we’re pretty laid back in our bars (can’t comment on those Geordie Shore type places, but who the hell wants to go in them anyway).
They say Geordies are a friendly bunch**, and nowhere is this confirmed more than in the local beer scene.
So, what does the future hold for Newcastle? Exciting times! There are some amazing new projects being worked on (looking forward to the Northern Powerhouse collab.), plus other collaborations with brewers across the UK and beyond, pop-ups at festivals, tap room openings, new bars (Mean Eyed Cat has just opened, and Beeronomy is next up from the guys at Mordue Brewery), plus a new local beer delivery service has just launched from Brew Stories + Coppers in Gosforth. So many people are working on pushing boundaries and creating new ideas to keep us at the forefront of all things beery (and meaty, in the case of Block & Bottle, who are just over the bridge in that there Gateshead, but most definitely form part of the Newcastle beer scene).
So now I’ve wittered on about how great Newcastle is, want to see for yourself? Come and visit for a weekend (*cough* tickets are on sale now for Craft Beer Calling in October *cough*). Oh, and if you’re reading this Virgin East Coast, this is my plea for you to get some decent local beers on the train coming up North. Thanks in advance.
*Disclaimer: in my day job, I work for Head of Steam HQ. But it’s also where I’ve drank for nearly two decades, so it’s on my list and it’s staying there.
**Disclaimer: I wasn’t born and bred in Newcastle, so there’s my excuse if you ever meet me and I’m awful.
You can follow Daisy here: [https://twitter.com/daisy_turnell]
Photos courtesy (and copyright) of Daisy Turnell.
Taking responsibility for describing Sheffield is Jules Gray, co-owner of Hop Hideout and Director of Indie Beer Feast in the city, her words are as follows:
Each city has its own equilibrium and uniqueness - with Sheffield it is definitely the balance of being a city of makers, little mesters if you will; independent business that allows it to thrive and be such a hotbed of exciting and creative endeavours. It's an outdoor city where countryside meets city living and I think this is carried through in the beer landscape. Where you'll find countryside farm breweries like Bradfield to industrial situated concerns like Neepsend or Kelham Island next door to nano-breweries like On The Edge. There’s not a one-size fits all in this city it’s very idiosyncratic. Tradition meets modernity seems to be inherent. Cask ale dominates slaking the thirst of locals and those who travel to tick round areas like Kelham Island in addition to a number of local cask leading breweries like Abbeydale who are adding new styles such as kettle-sours, canning and kegging beers from their range or young breweries like Lost Industry who focus on big experimental flavour combinations (and package in keg and bottle). It's a naturally evolving beer landscape without the sudden sharp spikes. There's a great range of independent beer led businesses with their own personality - Rutland Arms, Shakespeares, Hop Hideout beer shop, Beer Engine and more. To beautiful tiled historic pubs with real character like The Bath Hotel or The White Lion, Heeley. There’s modern takes on craft beer bars like The Old Workshop, a flurry of micro pubs and a couple of brewpubs too like The Sheffield Tap and Sentinel Brewhouse.
I think Sheffield's sometimes forgotten about in certain beer stories, so setting up Sheffield Beer Week was a way to beat our unison drum and tell our own story. I think in the desert of the 90s Kelham Island Brewery via their Fat Cat pub really held the mantle and kept the candle going to inspire many others along the way. Thornbrige were one of those who received words of wisdom from Kelham's Dave Wickett and though they brew in the neighbouring Peak District, have many pubs in Sheffield and are themselves now a leading light in the UK craft brewing scene and around the World. I'm also hugely proud of Sheffield Beer Week - it's been going roughly four years and we always try to forge our own path. This year we celebrated women working in the beer industry as one of our key strands and I was hugely proud of being able to shout about that - The Rutland Arms hosted a brewsters tap takeover and we hosted Ladies That Beer and Fem.Ale collectives to put on tastings.
There was a collaboration pomelo kettle-sour brewed at Lost Industry called Emmeline (inspiration from the Suffragette movement) and Mark Newton exhibited photos from his Yorkshire Beer project all around the city too, each with a different focus. Sheffield can really bring people together and I think that climate is unique and beneficial. This year was the first time I organised an independent craft beer festival - a huge amount of work but I was so happy to see 100s of people enjoying the beer at Indie Beer Feast. I think the next few years in Sheffield are really going to go on fast forward and I’m hugely excited at what’s coming from all the talent in the city.
Making Sheffield a perfect beer city? That’s a difficult one! I think as it is, it's a great ale destination. I personally think there could be more variety in terms of styles and countries covered in the daily beer trail - but I absolutely love Belgian beer, culture and lambic, so that's swaying my answer. It'd be great to see more beer and food winning combinations - you have a good few trying with Beer Engine's tapas, Rutland Arm's small plates, Devonshire Cat's take on pub classics, Sentinel’s cooking with beer but I think there could be far more places really pushing the boundaries. But wine and spirits always seem to win over some of the foodie places rather than beer. It's a shame. I’m not saying do one or other, I’m just saying if you’ve really put a huge effort into the food menu and wine offering, why not the beer selection too? With the huge varieties of styles and flavour beer can offer some superb food pairings.
You can follow Jules and Hop Hideout here: [https://twitter.com/HopHideout]
Photos courtesy (and used under copyright) of Mark Newton.
Thanks for reading, as ever, if you have any comments or think there’s something to add about your city (if listed above, or even if not present…) then please drop a comment in below!