Those predicting ‘trends for 2013’ put “craft beer” high on their lists like 2012 never happened. Apparently Britain has more breweries than ever before and there’s a fair number that are producing incredibly well crafted artisan booze in any space possible. Be it railway arches in Bermondsey or basements in Hackney, brewers are finding space and producing the kind of beer that’s delighting palettes and making the CAMRA lot very confused.

The ale world has moved on from warm farty waters drunk by men wearing leather gillets and sporting ponytails. Beer is now exciting and innovative and the drinkers are younger and prettier, just like the brewers. Now is the time to catch up with the guys who are making getting drunk all that much tastier. I’m starting my beer journey at the Howling Hops brewery, a fairly new addition to the micro brewing world that’s making some of the best beer around.


I head into the belly of one of my favourite booze beasts, Hackney’s The Cock Tavern, to find brewer Ed Taylor cooking his first malt mash of the day. The room is steamy and there’s sweetness in the air from the malt sugars being extracted. Ed shows me around, puts some cascade hops under my nose and gives me drink of the wort, the hot malt solution that begins the brewing process. The things achieved in this tiny space are stunning, and beer produced is of fantastic quality.


After we emerge from the basement we taste some of the things currently on cask and keg. The standout beer for me is the new Smoked Porter, a deep dark beer with a wonderful subtle smoke to it. This is one of the first beers Howling Hops have bottled, along with Pale No.3, which is a really refreshing drop. It’s the varied qualities and flavours of this kind of beer that is seeing more and more interest in drinking delicious things.


As tastes slowly change, the shift towards more well crafted food and drink continues and with it we want everything to be as tasty as possible. In some cases, beer is replacing wine in terms of cooking and matching with food. Hopefully the kind of snobbery that became synonymous with wine will stay out of the craft beer world. Those real ale types still arguing over cask vs keg and getting upset about black IPAs should be the extreme, and we can all get on with enjoying incredible beer created in the most unlikely of locations.


(This is a slightly longer version of an article which appeared in What’s Up What’s On magazine)


Words By Craig Ballinger


Photography By Charlie Whatley