Nothing beats packing your Weekender, leaving the hustle and’ bustle, and taking off for the countryside to sip on a local craft beer -- so it’s a good thing Britain has experienced a craft brewing boom that has led to the creation of some of the most refreshing and satisfying, independent breweries. But with hundreds of breweries in the UK, which beers are worth road-tripping a couple of hours for?
To answer that question, here is our essential guide to the best independent breweries (and brews) to enjoy on your next weekend away:
Wild Beer Company - Somerset
When the Wild Beer Company first began brewing beers on a farm in rural Somerset, they quickly got a name for crafting some wildly eccentric recipes. That’s their mantra. They are experimentalists. Rogues. Brewers that like to play around with everything. Fermentation, wild yeasts, barrel-ageing, fruity flavours, everything. And the result: forget-me-not beers that will give your tongue a total thrill-ride. Try their infamously sour beer, the Zintuki, or their all-British Funky Dory and take your beer drinking to places it’s never been.
Stubble & Co recommends: Amuse Strawberry, cidery beer, 5.4% ABV
Harbour Brewing Company - Cornwall
There are breweries that claim to be a way of life and breweries that deliver on that cliché -- the Harbour Brewing Company is the latter. Hidden on a farm just outside Padstow, these are brewers that take beer seriously. Not only are they dedicated to the techniques they’ve developed, they are obsessed with the raw ingredients they use, from the Cornish spring water they tap from the source to the unique blend of hops they use. But it’s not just the beer they take seriously, it’s the Harbour life, which includes surfing the coast when the swell is great and skating the in-house ramp when they need a break from the barrels. Their philosophy is simple: to make good beer, life should be good -- and you can taste this in every sip.
Stubble & Co recommends: Puffin Tears, IPA, 5.0% ABV
Red Rock Microbrewery - Devon
When it comes to local beer, Devonians are spoilt for choice. You could spend 48-hours in Devon going from microbreweries in pub basements to independent breweries on rural farms and back again -- but the Red Rock Brewery tops them all. Hiding in the hills of South Hams, an Area of Outstanding Beauty, this little family of artisan brew-makers have found a way to a) add a generous dollop of passion to their grain-to-glass process and b) create something for everyone. There’s a range of craft beers for those wanting something a little more edgy, a quintessentially British range of real ales for the traditionalists, a slow range for taste-appreciating sippers-not-slurpers, and a constant flow of limited edition beers because, well, this brewery was born out of innovation and they’re not about to change that ethos anytime soon.
Stubble & Co recommends: Porter, craft ale, 4.5% ABV
Otley Brewing Company - Pontypridd
Some brewers are conservative. Some are not. The Otley Brewing Company are not. They are Welsh mavericks that did away with any pretence of being traditional from the get-go. They wanted to make beers for the new and adventurous drinker, packing their pints with wild tastes and flavours, and seeing how far they could push their brewing. But while they might not believe in conformity or convention, they most definitely believe in full flavours and tasty aromas. From the original pale and smooth O1 to the deliciously spiced summer ale named O12, they’ve brewed beers for every palate and filled their trophy cabinet with half-a-dozen Champion Beer of Britain awards along the way.
Stubble & Co recommends: Otley O8, rare golden ale, 8.0%
Blackpit Brewery - Buckinghamshire
Through hard work, experimentation and gutsy creations, these brew-making chancers are quietly becoming the brewery for real beer fans. As the legend goes, this brewery was started by three amigos from school trying to find their vocation in the big, bad world. That vocation was pubs and beers -- and they had that what-the-heck, fear-nothing ambition of teenagehood to go for it. Fast forward a few years and the Blackpit Brewery is busy crafting a range of permanent and seasonal beers from a converted stable block on the banks of a farm lake between Silverstone and Stowe. And just yards from their brewhouse is their must-visit Blackpit taproom open every Friday. Whether you like refreshing bitters, pale ales, English IPAs, ruby red beers or those with an amber glow, this is a must-slurp-at taproom.
Stubble & Co recommends: Sky Rocket, English IPA, 5.5% ABV
Burning Sky - East Sussex
We’ve explored mavericks, innovators, traditionalists and fearless breweries, and now we have Burning Sky: a brewery that takes its time to discover, develop and brew some of the most sophisticated beer to ever flow past your lips. These are artisan brewers and blenders right down to the bone marrow, and their brewhouse is a true farmhouse brewery. They brew wildly fermented saisons popular with quick-halfers, easy-to-drink IPAs popular with festival-goers, petite saisons popular with thirst-quenchers that like a low ABV, and a range of pale ales that promise to keep everyone happy.
Stubble & Co recommends: Indecision Time, pale ale, 5.6% ABV
Big Drop Brewing Co - Suffolk
This is a brewery like no other and their tagline says it all: To drink. Not to be drunk. That’s right. Born out of a want to make great tasting beer that is less than 0.5% and holds its own against full-strength rivals, the Big Drop Brewing Co has created an award-winning range of sours and pale ales, lagers and stouts, brown ales and winter warmers. So whether you are looking to cut down, cut out or try something new and exciting, the Big Drop shelves have something delicious for every kind of beer lover.
Stubble & Co recommends: Big Drop Stout, award-winning stout, less than 0.5% ABV
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