Small brewers bring cheer to Britain's drinkers

Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:20am EDT
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By Peter Schwartzstein

LONDON (Reuters) - A single vat bubbles languidly in the corner, while the air in the small, high-ceilinged space under a South London railway arch slowly fills with a zesty, hoppy smell, as the latest batch of Black India Pale Ale gradually fermented.

This is the Kernel microbrewery, one of many new kids on the British beer block who are bucking the downward national trend in beer drinking.

Where once the big, multi-national beer corporations accounted for the lion's share of brewery growth, now small, independent brewers with names like Beavertown Neck Oil, East London Jamboree and Hackney Hopster that are leading the way.

"This stuff's great, way better than the big brand beers," Max Marcus told Reuters as he cradled an early afternoon pint of Camden Ink at the Exmouth Arms in London's Clerkenwell area.

Microbrewers are tapping into what many see as a weariness with big, established brands.

"People are moving away from the mainstream rubbish," Andrew Turner of the recently opened London Fields brewery said. "They want to drink good local stuff."

That 158 breweries have opened within the past year alone would appear to bear out microbrewers' contention that they are merely tapping into renewed interest in Britain's ale heritage.

"We're easily impressed by exciting Fosters adverts, and so we buy their product," said Roger Protz, author of the authoritative "Good Beer Guide. "But we're tired of drinking the advertising."   Continued...