10 great beers from Britain's buoyant brewing industry to help you offer something different
Brewing is one of Britain's great success stories, even at a time when consumers are feeling the pinch. Cask ale and craft beers have won new, younger drinkers who are far from the image of the bearded, sandal-wearing pub bore of old. In fact, last year's Cask Report 2011-12 showed that cask ale has continued to outperform the UK beer market and now has a 15% share, equivalent to one in every six pints.
Meanwhile, artisan brewers, some of whom have taken their cue from the US craft brewing scene, have started to produce innovative, exciting beers in bottles or kegs, which can easily be sold in hotels and restaurants where there aren't the facilities to keep a live product like cask ale. Just ask Evin O'Riordain, who in the past couple of years has seen demand for the beers produced by his Kernel Brewery (see opposite) grow to such an extent that he is temporarily unable to take on more customers.
So as drinkers get better educated about beer, it makes sense to offer them greater choice and the sense that they are getting something truly different. In the year of the Olympics, which will hopefully see an influx of tourists from all over the world, there is also a great opportunity to upsell to customers who want a taste of the best that Britain has to offer. That is why Caterer and Hotelkeeper has rounded up 10 great beers from British brewers that you should try stocking in your business, several of which are designed to work well with food.
Kernel IPA Citra
Brewer Kernel Brewery
Background Kernel is brewed from Evin O'Riordan's comparitively small brewing operation in south east London's Druid Street. O'Riordan originally worked making cheese but was inspired to make beer after he tried the products coming out of the US craft beer scene while on a stint working in the country. As a result, Kernel's beers tend to be characterised by up-front hops, and nowhere is that more evident than with its range of IPAs.
Tasting notes Kernel likens the IPA Citra to a tropical fruit salad, while the beer smells like "a Manali marijuana field". The beer has a full and creamy body, with mangoes, peach, lychee and papaya all detectable on the tongue, and a bitter finish.
Supply details The Kernel Brewery (http://www.thekernelbrewery.com" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">www.thekernelbrewery.com) currently only delivers to central London. IPA Citra is available with a minimum order of six cases. The trade price for 24 x 330ml bottles is £36.96 excluding VAT. Kernel is not currently in a position to fulfil orders because of demand but hopes to improve the situation within a few months.
Beer Kitchen Range
Brewer Wadworth Brewery
ABV Ranging from 5% to 6.2%
Background Devizes brewer and pub company Wadworth has launched a range of beers available only in 330ml bottles that are specially designed to accompany food. The five beers were created in the brewer's microbrewery, the Beer Kitchen, which gives the range its name. They are Wheat Beer; IPA; Orange Peel; Whisky Barrel Aged Premium Bitter; and Espresso Stout. Wadworth claims that beer is a relatively low alcohol and low calorie alternative to wine and recommends staff training to help promote the concept.
Wheat beer A classic "Belgian White" with a tart lemon aroma, softening to a well-rounded silky finish on the tongue with a hint of spice, designed to work as an aperitif or palate cleanser, or alongside light starters.
IPA Fruity and robust, with a full-mouth feel, which extends into a long-lasting close. Designed as an aperitif with the strength to stand up to the powerful flavours of smoked, barbecued and spicy foods.
Orange Peel Golden-orange colour with an intense orange and citrus nose. Fruity, with a caramel sweetness, the beer is designed to complement game.
Whisky Barrel Aged Premium Bitter Confident and strong, malty ale with soft nutty wooden notes and bitter warmth of the residing whisky. Works well with heavy mature Cheddars or British blue cheeses.
Espresso Stout Brewed with Kenyan Nyeri coffee beans, to intensify the depth of cocoa-like bitterness in the beer rounded off with sweetness from muscovado sugar. Designed for the end of a meal.
RRP £4 per bottle
Supply details Trade price of £20.40 ex VAT per case of 12, available from Wadworth Brewery on 01380 723361. Direct delivery restricted to "Wadworthshire" (Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol). For orders outside the area, contact Wadworth for wholesaler details.
Brewer JW Lees
Background The Government's decision to reduce tax on beers at 2.8% ABV or below, making them 50p a pint cheaper than stronger drinks, means that a number of brewers have dipped their toes in the lower-strength beer market in the hope of tempting customers conscious of their units, or perhaps just looking for a lighter drink. One of those is Manchester-based JW Lees, which has produced two beers - Greengate Lite and lager Golden Lite - which qualify for the reduced rate of duty.
Tasting notes A clean, light coloured lager, with an enticing, hoppy aroma. Refreshing and can be enjoyed in all seasons.
RRP £2.25 per pint
Supply details Golden Lite is currently available as a draught product only, in 11G containers. Call JW Lees sales office on 0161 6434289 and speak to Gaynor regarding availability.
Brewer Meantime Brewery
Background The successful London Porter that Greenwich-based Meantime brews contains chocolate malt, a very dark malt that has a natural chocolate flavour. So it seemed a natural move for head brewer Alistair Hook to enhance a traditional British beer using ground cacao from the nib of the cocoa bean to bring this flavour out - the result of which is a smooth, vanilla, mocha style chocolate beer. Other breweries that brew chocolate beer tend to rely on the addition of chocolate rather than the malt itself. Meantime attempts to let the malt do the talking instead.
Tasting notes The natural mocha flavours of the four different roasted malts used to brew this rich, dark beer are complemented by the addition of real chocolate during maturation. Warm, complex and smooth, it has a long, clean finish. An ideal dessert or digestif beer, it also matches well with beef or game stews.
Supply details Available in bottle only. Although there is a long list of wholesalers, the best way for on-trade outlets to get hold of the beer is to contact Meantime directly on 020 8293 1111.
Brewer The Orkney Brewery
Background The Orkney Brewery has been owned by Highland restaurateur Norman Sinclair since 2006 and is housed in the former schoolhouse in Quoyloo, one mile from Skara Brae in the heart of Neolithic Orkney. Northern Light, a delicately hopped pale ale, is perhaps less well-known than some of its other beers including Dark Island, which has twice been named the Campaign for Real Ale's Champion Beer of Scotland.
Tasting notes The light and refreshing Northern Light combines juicy malt character with a citrus and apricot hoppiness and can be served at room temperature or chilled.
RRP £3.50/£4 free trade for either a pint or 500ml bottle
Supply details The beer is available in casks or 500ml bottles. For further information, contact email@example.com or telephone 01666 404 555.
Brewer Tomos Watkin
Background OSB, which stands for Old Style Bitter, was the first of Swansea brewery Tomos Watkin's beers. It is brewed as a traditional, full-bodied premier bitter and has picked up several awards, including a bronze medal at the Great British Beer Festival in 1999.
Tasting notes A rich red premium ale produced using pale ale, crystal and wheat malt. A full fruity/citrus hop flavor of willamette and fuggle with the light aroma of goldings.
RRP £1.89-£2.40 (bottles)
Supply details Available all year round in cask and bottle and distributed throughout the UK mainland. Trade price for a case of 12 x 500ml bottles is £16 (£1.33 per bottle). Contact Tomos Watkin's sales depots on 01792 560020 (Swansea) or 02920 861100 (Caerphilly). All products can be bought at www.tomoswatkin.com.
Brewer Thornbridge Brewery
Background Jaipur is already well-known in the UK, having won more awards than any other UK beer since it was created in 2005. The beer has its roots in the pale ales that were exported from Britain to India in the 18th and 19th centuries. But the twist with Jaipur is that it uses American hops to produce a modern take on a classic style.
Tasting notes Initially soft and smooth, but building around the mouth to a crescendo of massive hoppiness accentuated by honey, which converts into a powerful but pleasant, enduring bitter finish.
RRP £2.25 (per bottle)
Supply details Available in cask, key keg and bottle. Prices from the brewery available on request - call 01629 64 1000.
Brewer Sharp's Brewery
Background Sharp's is best-known for its now-ubiquitous Doom Bar, which has taken the pubs of the nation by storm. But the brewery, which has retained Stuart Howe as its head brewer despite its acquisition early last year by brewing giant Molson Coors, offers a range of lesser-known beers, including the seasonal Atlantic IPA. Available in the spring, the beer is brewed from an all-malt grist and a blend of four hop varieties, one of which is grown by the Eden Project in Cornwall, the result of ongoing work between Sharp's and Eden to re-establish hop growing in the county.
Tasting notes The hops give the pale-coloured beer a complex nature, which is balanced by a fresh, citrus aroma and light candyfloss notes.
RRP Available on enquiry
Supply details Contact Sharps Brewery on 01208 862121.
Background The iconic beer brand Truman's, which had been brewing beer in east London since 1666, stopped production in 1989. But the brand was resurrected in 2010 when James Morgan and Michael-George Hemus bought the rights to the Truman's name from Scottish and Newcastle. Currently on the hunt for an east London brewery, Truman's brews one beer at the moment (aside from its seasonal ales) inspired by the beers of the brewery's heyday. A deep copper-coloured beer, the name Runner recalls the period at the turn of the 20th century when brewers such as Truman's were turning way from porters, stouts and India pale ales that needed long months of maturation in giant wooden vats. The big brewers had bought large estates of tied houses and wanted beers that could be served quickly after a brief second fermentation in pub cellars. The result was "running beers", today's cask beer or real ale.
Tasting notes Brewed with pale, chocolate, rye and wheat malts and hopped with Fuggles, Goldings and Styrian Goldings, it has a deep copper-red colour, a spicy and fruit aroma with a powerful hint of chocolate, a fruity and bitter palate, and a complex finish that offers peppery hops, rich chocolate and fruit, and a fresh bread maltiness.
RRP £3.30-£3.80 per pint. £3.80-£4.20 per bottle.
Supply details Direct delivery service in London and the home counties - call 0207 247 1147 for details. Regional stockists should contact Truman's with details of their preferred supplier and Truman's will contact the supplier directly. For more details see http://www.trumansbeer.co.uk" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">www.trumansbeer.co.uk.
Brewer Hopdaemon Brewery
Background Hopdaemon started brewing in 2000 and has since gained a reputation for its liberal use of one of the best-known agricultural products of its native Kent - hops. Its brewery at Newnham near Faversham uses the brewery's unique strain of yeast, traditional malted barley, and hops - particularly the Goldings, Challenger and Kentish Cascade varieties - which come from a farm just down the road. It was a winner at the 2002 Kent Beer Festival.
Tasting notes An aromatic copper-coloured pale ale. Fruity with spicy citrus hop aromas, which marry well with food, it has been described as "Kent in a pint".
RRP £3-£3.50 (bottle), £3.50 (pint)
Supply details The beer comes in casks (9-gallon firkins) or bottles (8 x 500ml packs). A cask of Skrimshander costs £90/£100 (inc VAT) wholesale, with a pack of eight bottles costing £14 (£1.75 per bottle). Both can be ordered for direct delivery in Kent from Hopedaemon (01795 892078).
Orders from further afield can be placed by contacting Flying Firkin on 01282 865923 or Darkstar Brewery on 01403 713085.