Sometimes it seems that craft beer is turning into the very thing it set out to destroy. Ubiquitous hop-heavy pale beers have taken on the role of pale lager and once-upstart craft brewers such as Sierra Nevada are building second breweries in order to capture more market share. I spent an evening in a beer bar in Kuala Lumpur recently, and I could have been anywhere in the globe. The same old names were there on the draft list.
Happily, some breweries are developing local character. Tobias Emil Jensen, of the Danish brewing company To Øl, told me recently that he felt that a handful of other new breweries and his own had created a new Danish style – hard to pin down, but they were "lighter-coloured beers, quite tart, aromatic and clean". I saw something similar when I visited Australia last month.
The American craft-beer revolution has left Oz full of US-hopped pale ales, but Aussie craft beer is starting to go its own way. The hop industry is in full bloom. Breweries such as Nomad are using local ingredients, and the likes of Two Metre Tall and La Sirène are experimenting with wild yeast. Costa Nikias, owner and head brewer at La Sirène, is installing a coolship – an open fermenting vessel – in order to capture the flavours of the creek next to his brewery in his beer. That's real local flavour.
This is all heartening news. A good IPA is a wonderful thing, but variety is even better. Without the addition of local character and regional diversity, we're back where we started.
Three to try
Cooper's Sparkling Ale
This Australian classic has been brewed in Adelaide for donkey's years. Incredibly drinkable for a beer of this strength. £1.99 for 375ml, 5.8 per cent ABV, waitrose.com
To Øl Blossom
This American-style wheat beer is made with a variety of flowers and raspberry leaves. £4.75 for 330ml, 6.3 per cent ABV, bottle-shop.co.uk
Shepherd Neame Magna Carta 1215 Ale
Mugwort, yarrow, woodruff and fennel – a nod to the ingredients used in English beer before hops. £17.50 for 750ml, 8 per cent, shepherdneame.co.ukReuse content