Melissa's picks

We’d need a much bigger box to bring you beer from every new brewery deserving your attention. So, who better than Melissa Cole to give us the lowdown on a few great breweries that we missed out on?

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I’m calling this the ‘Time Has No Meaning Any More’ edition because, frankly, trying to keep up with global beer news when you couldn’t travel or see your usual network of folks (and, frankly, behave like an over-excited puppy at the first few big events you do visit) makes “give us your top new breweries” a pretty tough brief.

Also, the resilience of people opening a brewery in the last few years is, to me, incredibly inspirational. Truly, I think you’re all completely bonkers, but I admire you anyway. 

So, while it’s mainly new breweries in here, there are also a couple that snuck under my radar a bit over the last couple of years, so I’ve included them alongside a future recommendation and a slightly more off-beat recommendation to look out for. 

Cerveza Màger (near Barcelona, Spain)

A recent judging in Barcelona for El Campeonato de Cervezas, and a subsequent visit to one or three bars, saw some sensational beers pressed into my hands. One brewery in particular stood out for me, Cerveza Màger, where brewer Alex Puig is bringing together the worlds of wine and beer in a way that is almost ineffably elegant. 

If you’d like a good example of his dedication to making unique beer, Puig won the Molina for Brewing Innovation Award, at the Barcelona Beer Challenge this year, for his Dolça Sour. This beer is based on an almost extinct way of making a sweet farmhouse wine in cauldrons, called ‘boiled wine’ or ‘vimblanc’; soured and still, it is a real blurring of the boundaries of where beer ends and wine begins, and it gives a real sense of place to the drinking experience. 

However, it was his peach and vanilla beer that really took my breath away, the 9% alcohol hiding behind the elegant ageing in white wine barrels, it was a beer that just made me want to stop the world and get off, because I wanted to give it my fullest concentration, and that’s not something that happens every day.

PHOTO: Cerveza Màger

Cohesion Brewing (Denver, USA)

When a former Allagash brewer turns up to open a Czech-style taproom in Denver, people have a tendency to take note, and Cohesion is certainly making a bit of noise in that regard. Erik Larkin and business partner (and spouse) Lisa Larkin, were inspired by a trip to the Czech Republic to dedicate themselves to bringing the delights of big foam side pours to a city that isn’t exactly lacking in stunning lager already (I’m looking at you, Bierstadt!). 

Although the brewery itself is – and brace yourself for a big surprise here – on an industrial estate, it should win design awards for being the most aesthetically pleasing tap room I’ve visited in a very long time, with soft sage green tiles, sparkling brass handles and a very clear commitment to causes and being part of the community (another thing I love about Denver, it has breweries with clear moral purpose all over, most notably Lady Justice).

However, joking about industrial estates aside, it is actually an area undergoing huge regeneration and seems destined to become a destination for fun. 

The staff are sensationally knowledgeable and passionate, and the beers so brilliantly quaffable that it was almost impossible to leave to go and wander around a festival full of unknowns, when there was a perfect pint right in front of me, and occasionally a whole shot glass of foam as well, just for fun. 

PHOTO: Cohesion Brewing

Strangers Brewing Co. (Linlithgow, Scotland)

Rooting themselves firmly in the community and trying to leave the smallest of footprints, Strangers Brewing has come straight out of the gate with some great beer, the light porter infused with sloes particularly caught my palate’s attention. 

Committed to using single-origin malted barley, from Crafty Malters in Fife, seasonal ingredients, some of which come from community growing efforts like the rhubarb saison, and each beer taking its name from the local surroundings.

The brewery itself takes its name from the Linlithgow town motto – ‘St Michael is kind to strangers’ – and is already taking steps to give back to its community, planting over 30 trees and bushes on the farm, and pledging to put 10% of its profits back into local causes by 2023.

PHOTO: Strangers Brewing Co.

Ski Bums

Outer Range, a seriously good Coloradan brewery, has announced its intention to open a French outpost in Sallanches at the foot of Mount Blanc. So if skiing, great beer and Nashville Hot Chicken sound like a great combination to you, then put them on your list. 

PHOTO: Outer Range Brewing Co.

Seoul Food

Not exactly a new brewery recommendation, but keep an eye out for makgeolli, a Korean rice ‘wine’, which like sake is more akin to beer, which has gone from being considered a rather ‘low class’ drink to now seeing a renaissance from the huge explosion of craft brewers in South Korea. 

Best drunk when fresh, or it eventually becomes rice wine vinegar, it’s got a very specific viscous texture, that can be divisive, but as it is the oldest fermented beverage in Korea it’s nice to see ancient brewing techniques and traditional drinks are getting a look in again.

PHOTO: Makgeolli © Flickr: ~Cytryna~ (CC BY 2.0)

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