Beer: raise a glass to Bristol’s food and drink revolution

There’s such a focus on Bristol’s restaurants at the moment that it’s easy to overlook the other things the city does well, and in my book top of that list is beer. So dynamic is its brewing scene (it now has around 17 permanent breweries) that the local tourist board recently arranged a press trip to a cross-section of the city’s microbreweries and tap rooms

Wiper And True: serve with crab cakes.

Wiper And True: serve with crab cakes.

What I found particularly striking was that everyone was doing their own thing, rather than competing to see who could make the biggest, hoppiest ales. All said that the collaborative spirit among brewers, combined with Bristol drinkers’ willingness to experiment and their loyalty to local brews, made the city an ideal place for a startup.

Most of the breweries on the trip were already familiar to me, but even they were doing new things. Bristol Beer Factory, for example, has just launched a new 4% abv session ale called Fortitude (available only on cask at the moment from its tap room in Southville), a big, malty brew that should satisfy anyone who finds craft beers too fancy.

Just up the road, Wiper and True has opened a beer bar and crab shack in a former Bedminster butcher’s shop, where you can pop in for a half of its excellent Milk Shake (5% abv), an irresistibly smooth, sweet stout that you can also buy by the bottle online from Beerhawk at £2.99. (Milk stout is very popular in Brizzle.) Moor Beer, which moved to the city from Somerset three years ago and is already spilling out of its Days Road site, also makes a terrific stout with the what-it-says-on-the-tin name of Moor Stout (5% abv). I found it fascinatingly fruity, and almost winey in character; that’s £2.50 for a 330ml can from the brewery’s online shop.

My top find, however, was Lost and Grounded, an ambitious project run by Alex Troncoso, former head brewer at Australia’s Little Creatures, and his partner Annie. I loved their crisp, clean Keller Pils (4.8% abv) and refreshingly citrussy Hop-Hand Fallacy Farmhouse Ale (4.4% abv), which is flavoured with orange and coriander. You can buy both, at £2.40 and £2.60 respectively, at Oddbins’ Clifton branch and in its specialist beer shop in London’s Blackheath. Fabulous labels, too.

If you want to explore Bristol’s breweries for yourself, the East Bristol Brewery Trail takes in other brewers such as Arbor Ales, Dawkins, Good Chemistry and Left Handed Giant: check its Facebook page for future dates. Even the city’s venerable wine merchant Averys is getting in on the act with a craft beer festival on Saturday 15 July. That simply wouldn’t have happened five years ago.

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