Posted on 05/12/20
Five years ago, when my online craft beer club (as it then was) first sprang into existence, Craft Metropolis stocked only beers from specialist, London-based craft breweries. It gave the club a new slant on an existing concept. It allowed us to operate as a tiny business in a market dominated by one or two major players. And, as was the case more than once in the early days, it meant I could drive around London to pick up stock and deliver orders whenever a ‘reliable’ supplier let me down. More than a few companies go on about their commitment to personal service these days. I wonder how many of their owners are willing to drive to their customers’ homes to meet delivery deadlines?
That was five years ago. In time, we began to branch out. Tastes developed. As did demand. Today, as well as continuing to support local craft breweries, we’re increasingly supporting some carefully selected craft breweries from outside the UK. Seeing as we all love good beer, could I maybe introduce you to three such gems?
Gamma Brewing, Smedeholm, Denmark
It’s an unavoidable fact that imported beers are pricey. The cost of shipment needs to be accounted for. And increasingly these days, breweries favour cold-chain shipments (keeping their beers cold all the way from production to sale, for freshness). It’s another factor that eeks up the price. So when you look for imported beer, it’s pretty crucial you don’t end up wasting your furlough payments on brews that aren’t up to scratch. Gamma brews, I reckon, are among the best bang-for-your-buck imports anywhere in existence.
There are two sides to Gamma’s unmistakable MO. On the one hand you’ve got their clean, hoppy, smooth and expertly executed beers. On the other, there’s a rotating smorgasboard of murky hop-monsters. There’s an air of Burnt Mill about the brews on offer (Burnt Mill being a UK-based brewery I also love). Just like at Burnt Mill, the Gamma brewers seem to take a lot of time and care over all that goes into each of their creations. From ingredients and flavour profile to design and even can art, there’s something in these beers that signals nothing was rushed and no corners were cut.
Gamma are a wonderful example of the art behind brewing great beers.
Amundsen Bryggeri, Oslo, Norway
It’s quite something that, despite being a craft brewery, Amundsen has become Norway’s biggest brewery. It’s a well deserved accolade for a brewery that prides itself on their craft. ‘Created by Craftsmen’ is the brewery’s motto, and a delve into any of their wares will return a strong reward for anyone looking for something unique and unconventional.
Sweep aside the (perfectly good) hoppy beers and shuffle straight to Amundsen’s loopy section – dark, sour, barrel-aged; this is where the real fun is. The DIC (Dessert in a Can) series is a great example of what this brewery does so well. These imperial stouts have none of the grown-up appeal of, say, a Kernel or a Buxton beer. Instead they swing right to the other end of the spectrum, combining high sugar, heavy adjuncts and 10%+ ABVs to create beer monsters and flavour freaks. Who’s for a can of Chocolate Covered Salted Toffee Popcorn? Or a Hazelnut Praline Chocolate Truffle stout? A Unicorn Sprinkles Strawberry Doughnut? You get the idea. Wonderful, wacky stuff.
The cans themselves reinforce the madness, adorned with glooping marshmallow-style text as they almost always are. While the concept isn’t for everyone, just to think about making such unorthodox beers – let alone going ahead and making them – is a triumph. And as the brews have helped make Amundsen the biggest brewery in the land, they’re clearly much more than the gimmick purists might suggest.
Equilibrium Brewery, NY, USA
If you want the best hoppy beers in the world then America is where they are. Said a sheep-like beer drinker. More than once. It’s an oft-argued ‘opinion’ that inevitably leads to discussions on craft beer’s beginnings.
In the early days, the discussion goes, the UK made ‘real ale’. Decent stuff, and certainly an improvement that curtailed the exponential rise in mass-produced lager. The Americans tried it. They fell in love with both the idea and the product. So enamoured they were that they took real ale back to the States and started tinkering with it. They added some experimental and out-there hops. They brought it back. It was amazing, the revolution was born and the UK has been playing catch up ever since.
That’s one way of interpreting the current state of play, anyway. The flip side is UK breweries such as Pressure Drop, Polly’s and DEYA are all making beers at least as good as, if not better than, their trans-Atlantic counterparts. But whichever way you look at it, it’s hard not to agree that the US has historically been and remains a driving force for the changing face of craft beer worldwide. Today, the UK and US seem to rely on each other for new ideas and inspiration and team up to push the boundaries of craft brewing ever further. It’s against this backdrop that the appropriately named and Equilibrium Brewery continually comes up with some of the most sought-after beers either side of the pond. Whether it’s enjoyed via Equilibrium’s lactose-laced Double IPAs or their juicy Triples, the quality here is always assured. If you want to see what all the whoopin’ and hollerin’ you hear about stateside brews is all about then look no further. Equilibrium showcases all.
Thanks for reading out craft beer blog this month. I hope you enjoyed it.
Oli, Craft Metropolis founder.
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