Craft beer is everywhere at the moment, but do you have any idea what it actually is?
Craft beer has become ubiquitous in London over the last few years. You can’t go into a pub without being faced with a wall of mysterious beers that, let’s face it, you’ve probably never heard of.
There’s a lot of snobbery when it comes to craft beer, and in certain parts of London, opting for a Budweiser over a Brewdog can leave you facing a pubload of social shaming.
So what is this enigmatic beverage that everyone claims to have an intricate knowledge of, yet no one can go into detail about? Well, we have created a craft beer cheat sheet to help you bullshit your way through the next debate that will inevitably break out amongst self-appointed craft beer aficionados down your local.
So, what is craft beer?
If we’re honest, the term “craft beer” doesn’t really mean anything. Unlike terms like “bitter” and “lager”, “craft” doesn’t have anything to do with the ingredients or fermentation process. All it really means is that it’s made by independent brewers with love and care.
However, this isn’t necessarily true anymore. Camden Hells, probably the most famous of London’s “craft beers” is now a very well established product. It is expected that by 2020, Camden Town Brewery, which brews Camden Hells, will sell 40 million pints per year. It’s still nowhere near the levels of the proper big boys of beer, like Heineken or Carlsberg, but many craft beer enthusiasts would say that the brewery has sacrificed quality and integrity for profit.
If you want to be taken seriously as a craft beer connoisseur, you are pretty much obligated to dismiss Camden as a sell out and a poor man’s craft beer.
What’s an IPA then?
IPA stands for India Pale Ale and it, unsurprisingly, has its roots in colonial India.
In the 1700s, shipping normal ale from Britain to India was not possible; the conditions on the boat were too hot and too unstable and the beer would spoil. Obviously, this was an injustice that the British would not stand for and India Pale Ale was their solution.
IPA has far more hops than regular ale and, as such, it has a very hoppy taste. It also has extra crystal malt in it to give it sweetness.
Also, unlike their regular ale cousins, these beers are generally served cold.
Bottle or can?
Believe it or not, this is actually an extremely controversial debate in some extreme wings of the craft beer community. For the most part, cans, or tins, have become extremely fashionable. So, for the most part, opt for a can.
What should I drink?
This may all sound quite daunting, so here are a range of craft beers we have selected for you to enjoy at your leisure.
This is one of our favourites, although it’s not for the faint hearted. The Kernel is a 7.2% IPA and is made by The Kernel Brewery, a very small independent brewery based in Bermondsey. They have a seasonal approach to brewing beer, they use the best ingredients that are available at a particular time of year. They release in small batches and this allows them to keep up quality. Really, a top notch beer!
MEANTIME PALE ALE
Meantime brewery are an award winning brewery based in Greenwich. They have several fantastic beers, including a great IPA (although I’m afraid it’s not quite as good as The Kernel). Their pale ale is 4.3% and one of the best.
THE BLACK PERLE
This is a beer from the aptly named, Weird Beard Brewing Company. This tiny indie microbrewery has only just made the leap from kitchen to actual brewery, so it’s quite hard to find. But, this is definitely a brewery to watch!
Where should I drink it?
Craft beer is everywhere in London, but there are a few places which are famous for their craft beer.
BREWDOG CAMDEN, – Brewdog is one of the big names in craft beer, but for that very same reason it’s beers did not make it onto our list. Like Camden, it is just too big now to really claim to be a craft brewery. However, their pub in Camden is a good venue and is relatively inexpensive. Although they do heavily promote their own beers, other smaller tipples are available.
THE CRAFT BEER CO, ISLINGTON – The Craft Beer Co. has several pubs, but its venue in Islington is definitely its best. It has a good atmosphere and a wide variety of beers are on offer.
THE OLD COFFEE HOUSE, SOHO – Although this venue is nothing special to look at, it is owned by one of the most innovative microbreweries in the city, Brodies. Definitely worth a visit.