If you were designing a brewery, you wouldn't make it like Bristol Beer Factory's. There's a motley selection of brewing vessels tucked into various nooks and crannies, and the building itself has seen better days. It's the sort of place that would give some brewers nightmares. But Bristol Beer Factory (BBF) makes fantastic beer. It works.
You could say similar things about Bristol. It's not a flashy place, but there's something unique that makes this one of the most charismatic places in England, with a food and drink culture that leaves other more feted cities standing.
Beer is a big part of that. Bristol Beer Factory, founded in 2004, and Arbor, one of the UK's more experimental outfits, have recently been joined by the Moor Beer Company, a very welcome blow-in from the Somerset Levels. The energy is such that there's now a Bristol Beer Week, which has quickly established itself as one of the smartest such events in the country.
Bristol, despite being deep in cider country, actually has a long tradition of beer making, and was once famous for its stout. You can drink a descendant of those beers – Bristol Beer Factory's Milk Stout – all over town, but the Barley Mow, a beautiful blue-grey pub once owned by Wadworth but now in the hands of BBF, would be my pick.
Or there's another of my favourites, the Small Bar. That beautiful name's a bit misleading; it's not small in terms of size or ambition. It under-promises and over-delivers – a bit like Bristol.
Three to try
Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout
Smooth, creamy and beautifully balanced, this stout has won many awards. 4.5 per cent ABV, £29.50 for 12, bristolbeerfactory.co.uk
This best bitter benefits from a generous dry-hopping regime. Delicious and revelatory. 4.5 per cent AVB, £3.60 for 660ml, moorbeer.co.uk
Arbor Breakfast Stout
Muscular, bitter and full of chestnut and coffee character. 7.4 per cent AVB, £4.50 for 568ml, beergonzo.co.ukReuse content