For all that the UK has its own distinctive beer vernacular, UK brewers in recent years have increasingly taken on influences from abroad. This post looks at a few examples of that in action.
Among those making use of the marketing potential are London's Fourpure, whose beers are now available in Marks & Spencer. Fourpure Pils is 4.7% ABV and badged as "inspired by Munich". Not a city I'd have automatically associated with this style, but they do have pils there so fair enough. It poured a worrying hazy yellow but smelled reassuringly fresh and clean: some light crisp cereals overlaid with new-mown grass and softer stonefruit. There's a lovely smooth texture making it extremely sinkable. The fruit element is lost but the fresh grass effect infuses the whole flavour, mossy and moist to begin, with a harder acidic kick on the finish. Yes there's a slight savoury yeast buzz in there too but it doesn't spoil what's otherwise a damn decent session lager, one which I think would pass muster in Germany.
For their next trick, Fourpure has taken on New York, of all places, with Fourpure Session IPA, light even for this style at 4.2% ABV. It's murky as hell but smells gorgeous, popping with grapefruit and pineapple. And that's there in the flavour too but only fleetingly as a hollow watery character brings the hop fun to an abrupt close. The malt base peeps out a little as it warms, toffee and candyfloss, but not providing enough body to dispel the wateriness. And while I'm kicking it, there's a distinct yeast bite, adding the wrong sort of bitterness to the finish. It's not a bad beer: the attractive shapes thrown by the hops inspire a lot of forgiveness in me, but with a bit more body and a lot less yeast it could be a whole lot better, in this drinker's opinion.
Staying in M&S but switching to their own brands, I picked up this bottle of Greenwich Black IPA, brewed by Meantime "inspired by American craft beers". Hey: I like American craft beers! Maybe this will do what they do. It's 5.7% ABV and a dense, opaque black. It smells wholesome and portery: very English. And that's equally true on tasting. The hops are English hops, vegetal and metallic, balanced against dark toffee and liquorice on a creamy body. Lovely drinking but not even remotely like an American IPA. I'm happy to forgive that, though, and just settle into a pleasant traditional-style pint.
I'm not sure what to make of Haus Party by Camden Town Brewery which I found on draught at The Beer Market recently. This London brewery normally does very clean bright lagers and pale ales, and this is a murky red-brown amber ale in a vaguely American style despite the half-German name. The taste pulls in all manner of different directions at once: toffee over here, lavender this way, meadow flowers on another side. The aroma, meanwhile is an unrelated mix of spicy sherbet and citrus. A lot going on, and when it settles, a few sips in, it seems to me the lavender and sherbet which coalesce, resulting in a bathsalts effect. Very unusual and I'm not quite sure it works. Certainly the first beer of this kind that I've tasted from Camden Town.
Bringing up the rear, and taking us out of London, another US-influenced one. Bear State is an IPA from Thornbridge and was also found at The Beer Market. I came to it a little wary, having been disappointed by previous American-influenced Thornbridge beers, but this is a beaut. It arrived a perfect clear gold colour and sets up its stall with a fantastic fresh and juicy aroma, all apricot and honeydew. A pithy bitterness kicks off the flavour and then steps aside to allow the more subtle grapefruit and peach through. Above all it's light and clean -- almost lagery, in fact -- which is extra amazing given it's a massive 7% ABV. I could drink a lot of it and not be sorry. For a while.
Some really well done beers here, and the faithfulness to their origins matters not a jot. It's better than five boring takes on brown bitter, for sure.
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