Michael Lally in this weeks 3 bullet Tuesday, offered the question of what are the UK’s 20 most important craft beers? (Link)
Now stepping back from Craft being difficult to define, importance is difficult to define too. Michel welcomed recommendations on Twitter, which to my mind is a gathering of individual people’s important beers, both on personal journeys and perception of the market as a whole. It’s a great debate to have. It led me to start thinking about my own personal 20 most influential beers. So here they are!
1) Mordue Workie Ticket – When I first ventured into pubs and started drinking real caskale, this was one of the first picks I would go for. Perfect cask pint. Champion Beer of Britain in 1997. I loved this beer. So much so that I had this to accompany my wedding breakfast on the day I got married.
2) Tyne Bank Ridley Racer – Thinking back to when I first started to get excited by the possibilities of beer, this and perhaps Wylam Gold Tankard were my regular beer of choice. But this was a cracking pint, on cask, most often found in the Town Wall which was the local to my office back then.
3) Tempest Saison du Pomme – Now this was true craft. Back in the day when Tempest had hand stamped labels on their bottles, this was part of the craft range they did back then. This was definitely the first saison I’d tried. It was really good too!
4) Tyne Bank Mocha Milk Stout – This beer has a lot to answer for. This was the beer which got me drinking stouts. Up until this point the only stout Id had was Guinness. For those that follow me on untapped will appreciate how much I now adore stouts, and that can be traced back to that first bottle of this beer.
5) Left Hand Milk Stout – This is my earliest memory of a rare beer being on sale in the North East. I can remember @SheriffMitchell pointing this out being available in Coppers and I immediately wanted to try it! That was my earliest memory of Twitter steering my beer buying choices.
6) Tyne Bank Single Blond – a simple unassuming beer, but one that just happens to be my first untappd check in. The first step in a long and enjoyable journey!
7) Magic Rock Cannonball – Much spoken about by Steve from Beer O’Clock Show. I longed to try it and was constantly keeping my eyes open for Magic Rock beers. I chanced upon a keg of High Wire in Brewdog Newcastle one day, but that was it. But he power of the internet, I happened to mention that Id never had this beer before, and within a fortnight I was sent 3 bottles of freshly brewed cannonball. This was the most memorable beer experience Ive ever had. It was simply mind blowing how much delicious aroma leapt out that bottle as I cracked it open, it was the most amazing beer Id ever had. The flavours were mindblowing, the experience enhanced by sharing it via twitter with the beer geeks who’d spoken so highly of cannonball beforehand.
8) Brooklyn Sorachi Ace – Again, this was a marked step for me. I saw this beer as an exotic classy beer to try and my wife kindly sourced a bottle for me as part of my birthday present. It’s a beer which didn’t disappoint either, a big bottle, I shared it with a good friend who was also early in his beer journey. It’s a classic beer. (Link)
9) Magic Rock Strongman – My first barley wine. My first Magic Rock big bottle. This was my Christmas day beer the first year I took part in #12BeersofXmas and what an amazing beer this was. There are some beery moments which grab you, you get slightly nervous ahead of opening, not sure quite what to expect. Magic Rock big bottles back then had a certain presence, with the print on the glass itself. I still have the empty bottle! I’ve met Rich on a couple of occasions since having this beer and every time I ask them if they’re going to make some more. He’s never actually said no so I’m still living in hope!!
10) Beavertown Smog Rocket – one of the first beers I ever did a live online tasting for. This was an AlesByMail event hosted by Matt Curtis. This was right at the time when beavertown had first launched their cans. Symbolic for me as Beavertown were the first craft cans that I was really interested in and as a result of canning meant that we were able to see more of their beers on Tyneside. The tasting was a side by side tasting of the bottled version and the canned version. Clearly this was the same beer, but it was very interesting to note the variations that the two dispense methods brought.
11) Anarchy Brewery Sublime Chaos – a breakfast stout, one of the first coffee beers Hasbean coffee co were ever involved with. This was at the time when I was looking into canning and Anarchy were one of the most helpful brewery contacts I had at that time. So I had an affection for the brewery, but the quality of sublime chaos blew me away. A tremendous beer, good body and mouthfeel and a delicious blend of strong bold but not bitter coffee, with chocolate notes to compliment.
12) Magic Rock Unhuman Cannonball – The mighty, amazing, mind blowing beer that is unhuman cannonball. The beer which took me to Craft Beer Co in London for its launch night, the beer which saw me and a few others frantically messaging each other on release day morning to grab bottles, the beer which gave us the greatest ever Beer O’Clock Show episode with the highest ratio of giggling ever seen on a podcast! All those factors aside, this is one amazing beer. Last year’s batch was the best yet, I can’t wait to get my hands on this year’s batch!
13) Buxton – Wyoming Sheep Ranch. Buxton brewery are so unassuming. They simply don’t get any specific hype or buzz, unless they’re releasing Yellow Belly perhaps. But Wyoming Sheep Ranch represents a lot for me. Last year I travelled half way across the country on my own to go to a beer festival where I had only ever met one person, being Steve from the Beer O’Clock Show, and yet it soon became apparent that I knew a great many folk there and they knew me, all via Twitter. I walked through the front door of the Victorian Baths intending going in, getting a beer and then sussing out where Steve was. As luck would have it, as I stepped into the first corridor Steve appeared coming the other way and I was quickly whisked off for a big bad ass double IPA from one of the best, if not the best, brewery in the UK! I still quote this as my favourite of their double IPA’s, but in truth all their double IPAs are quality.
14) Wylam Jakehead – Massive coming of age beer for the north east, winning the hottest 100 beers attracted a lot of attention for this particular beer, but also the brewery and consequently the regions beer scene as a whole. It also marked my first appearance on the Beer O’Clock Show proper. Prior to this I’d done odd little daft recordings such as singing happy birthday to them etc, but this was my first chance to present to them down south, just how good north east beer can be. I have to say the bottle I had that night was probably the best I’ve ever had Jakehead. It was amazing, live, fresh, full of power and energy and raw quality. It’s a beer to grapple with and gives you an exhilarating rush of adrenaline when you conquer it! And more than anything else, here finally was a big dominant hop forward IPA from Tyneside that was capable of standing up amongst the big boys.
15) Mikkeller – Beer Geek Brunch Weasel. Here’s my first ever Mikkeller beer, bold thick viscous stout and what could be more craft than a beer made with the worlds most expensive coffee made from the droppings of weasel like cats?! More than that though, this was the first beer I actually reviewed in its own right on my blog (Link).
16) Wylam WxY – Released right at the start of 2016, Wylam’s first collab. Geordie beer brewed with a Yeastie Boys twist. That twist brought tremendous juicy exotic fruits from the southern hemisphere and the resultant murky beer did divide opinion in a visual sense, but the flavours were amazing. I remember hammering the last ever keg in the Crown Posada before it all ran out! But I took this beer over to Ireland with me and gave my good friends Wayne and Janice Dunne some and they featured it on their Irish Beer Snob podcast, check it out here: (Link)
17) Siren Calypso – My wife’s perfect beer. I think this beer more than any other represents the growing number of sour beers which have made their way into my fridge. You see sour beers have become my wife’s drink of choice. I’ve led her into the beer world and she has discovered a love for sours which shows no sign of diminishing! Siren’s Calypso is a classic, clean, crisp but laden with hops. I’m a huge fan myself, but I rarely get to try it!
18) Cloudwater DIPA v1 – There will be much debate about which DIPA is the best, but that’s not what I’m getting at here. The beer that set tongues wagging was v1. If v1 had been poorly received, we wouldn’t have the great list to debate now.
19) Almasty Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout – My perception is that Almasty have now become a nationally recognised brand. I’m a huge fan of Mark as a character and his beer. He’s always said to me that he wants to slowly build the brewery, not getting too far ahead of himself. But his beer leads the way. All the hallmarks are there, quality, consistency, variation of styles and flavours. When Steve and Mark asked me to appear on what would turn out to be the final ever studio show for the iconic Beer O’Clock Show (link), I really really wanted a beer that would represent the quality that the north east has to offer. Id taken an IPA on the show before in Jakehead, and I wanted something that represented the other beery love of my life, big boozy Imperial stouts! Almasty’s Imperial Stouts are bang on the sweet spot of roast levels for my palette. I did a whole blog post about it here: (link)
20) Northern Alchemy – Double IPA – The first beer I sampled as I walked through the door of #Hopsecret at Coppers Gosforth on their launch weekend. A tremendous local beer, from a brilliant local brewery, served in the perfect setting, amongst fellow beer lovers. I’m a big fan of Northern Alchemy, not just the beers, the lads are brilliant. Great honest talkers who’s enthusiasm for beer is genuinely infectious.
I would say that the above list represents the significant steps and influences on my craft beer journey. But the ribbon running through the above beers are the people and the interactions I’ve had alongside these beers. That’s what has taken an industry and made it a community.
Interesting to see how many of Michael’s suggestions don’t make the above list. There’s clearly a rationality to the beer scene, especially in my earlier days where beer simply didn’t travel too far from home!