British beer is back.
It sounds ridiculous to say—after all, England has thousands of years of brewing history, and stalwart labels like Fuller’s and Timothy Taylor are still producing some of the world’s most well-respected ales. But modernity hasn’t been entirely kind to the birthplace of bitters and imperial pints.
The problems started at home: The historic rise of tied houses (brewer-owned pubs that primarily serve their own beer), as well as the more recent trend toward corporate pub chains, contributed to a tightly controlled beer culture with little room for innovation. This situation, in turn, gave way to a broader image problem: As madcap American brewing made a name for itself across the pond, the Brits began to look like stick-in-the-mud traditionalists grumbling about the good old days.
But then something amazing happened: The beer scene in England went flat-out gangbusters. The number of breweries in London has tripled in the last six years, and there’s a similar boom in new upstarts—and new styles—happening around the Isles. And while stateside trailblazers have clearly been a major influence, this is no copycat revolution.
Here, we survey the scene and give you the tools you need to experience the best of new-school British brewing.
Written by Chris Schonberger (@cschonberger)