May's monthly beer club as always has a range of styles and beers from 12 different breweries. Click on the tasting notes below to discover more about each beer and have a go at this month's pub quiz. The featured brewery is Swansea based Boss BrewingFancy discovering new beers every month?
In February we had a lovely trip to see the team at Saltaire. We were really impressed with the brewery and the efforts they go to making sure their beer is as good as it can be. The commitment to quality was apparent in everything they do. We plan to work with them a lot over the next year so have featured them in April's monthly club.
Check out the tasting notes here to see who else has made it and have a go at this month's pub quiz !
At Saltaire we’re passionate about how we make our beer – it’s the only way we know! Truly independent, we don’t compromise on quality and we’ve been making internationally award-winning beer this way since 2006.
Based in Shipley, West Yorkshire, we’re making tasty beer in all formats to send around the UK and across the world. Casks and bottles remain firmly at our core and they are now joined by cans of modern craft beer and bottles of authentic continental lager.
Whilst we’re known for our flagship Blonde, we also have a range of best-loved beers. From our multi award winning speciality stout, Triple Choc to our vibrant American pale, Cascade.
Our Taproom is open to the public, attracting the local community since its launch. With six hand pumps dedicated to Saltaire beers, it’s an impressive venue, with a wonderful outdoor space that’s ideal for the summer months.
Creating honest beer with real character is at the root of our brewery. The production team is led by Ben Pearson, a talented brewer who cut his teeth at the fantastic Rooster’s Brewing in Harrogate before joining us in 2018 and deservedly working his way through the ranks. He is ably supported by Rob Cooke, our development brewer, who performed the same role at BrewDog in Ellon for just over four years.
Central to our belief in making the highest quality beer is using traditional methods, with a modern twist. We call this Beer. Done. Right. This mantra appears on all our products, and we remind ourselves of it every day.
Magic Rock & Kirkstall Brewery Visits
So… I’ll begin with a caveat this is the first blog and more importantly any piece of writing larger than a strongly worded email I’ve done since my school days (and I don’t remember being any good at it back then either)
Will approached me a few weeks ago and asked if I’d like to visit a brewery or two with James from our warehouse, “there is only one answer to that question surely” I said in my eager response! You see working for Best of British Beer has plenty of perks but one of the best ones is that our owners Will & Gill love to send us off on the occasional trips out to breweries and various trade shows. Not only to make some new contacts we can potentially buy lots of lovely beer from but also to have a bit of fun along the way. James only joined us on a permanent basis back in September 2021 after leaving his job delivering PE lessons in schools for something a little more enjoyable and I suspect was also seen as a team bonding opportunity between us/was a great opportunity for me to spend a bit of time getting to know him a little outside of work.
We’d been contacted by Magic Rock of Huddersfield who are very keen to work with us more, so this visit set itself up and what better place to visit than Yorkshire when breweries are on the agenda? As a county it’s a beer haven, boasting somewhere in the region of 200 active breweries. To make more of a day of it, we set about picking another location and Kirkstall Brewery in Leeds instantly came to mind. We featured this producer in our monthly club scheme back in April 2021 but we’re big fans of what they do and we’d like to do more business with them.
We set off on a glum looking morning both excited for the day ahead, and as the train thundered on past the red brick of Stoke, Stockport and Manchester were being rapidly replaced by the famous Yorkshire sandstone and the stunning views of the moorland, our first stop… Magic Rock was almost upon us.
At a little over a 10-minute walk from Huddersfield station we wandered into the brewery tap room though a huge yard filled with covered benches and seating areas which I can only assume is buzzing with discerning drinkers on lovely sunny days. We were greeted by Gemma who instantly set us up with a drink as we set about our meeting. A quick tour of the building and meet with the head brewer Tom, had us blown away at the scale of the site. When I visit a brewery, I don’t really check it out ahead of the visit as I like the surprise, we work with an enormous range of breweries all varying sizes and kit… you never quite know what you are going to get.
The tap room itself is well laid out, with plenty of seating and a nice big bar. The modern interior fits the building’s aesthetic perfectly as when enjoying your beer, you get to see through into the brewery itself with the shining steel kit on full display. I spotted various dates on a chalk board wall advertising visits from local food producers although sadly there were none for us today. One end of the room dominated by a large wooden cask storage area which we later found out were being used to age some new, yet to be released beers.
Sadly, the time came for us to head back to the station, my bag bulging with an array of sample cans which Gemma kindly set us up with, all with Magic Rocks colourful, distinctive, and eye-catching designs.
A quick train journey to Leeds and as we exited the station into the pouring rain a nice stroll to the next location was well and truly off the cards. As our taxi approached Kirkstall Brewery, we found ourselves staggered at the size of the building, looking more like city centre offices for a swanky IT company rather than a brewery. The dead giveaway (other than the huge signage) was the gleaming steel fermenters on display through the large windows. Heading inside was like stepping into another world, a stunning stained-glass window immediately catching my attention above the entrance. As the already busy bar area welcomed us my eyes darted everywhere as there was so much to take in, a mix of both modern fittings & fixtures with much older trinkets such as traditional beer and brewery ‘mirrors’ (you don’t see many of them anymore) and dozens of old steel signs. The most impressive feature was a very traditional glass and wooden curved ‘booth’ which was recovered from a pub by the brewery owner, I later found out the carpenter who originally installed it back in the day, then came back to give it a second life here.
We met with Ian, who quickly set about getting us a beer for from the bar, I opted for a pint of Dexter, a salted caramel milk stout… which did exactly what it said on the label… smooth, sweet, roasty and well, just lovely. James going in for Providence, a hazy pale ale.
Before we’d even had time to take everything in Ian had arranged an array of samples for us, featuring (amongst others) a pilsner, a fruited sour and the one we both found most interesting - a light mild, something neither of us had encountered before, being from the Midlands all the milds we’d tried had always been dark.
As we got about to chatting, discussing beer and the brewery a group booked of no less than 35 people arrived! Ian saw it as a perfect chance to give us a tour as the group settled themselves in and yet again the scale of the brewery was seriously impressive, the level of detail plain to see… even down to the laser etched glass viewing portals on the tops of the numerous vessels. “The good thing about moving into an old dairy is the huge cold room it comes with” Ian explained as he opened a huge sliding door that led us into a room stacked almost from floor to ceiling with gleaming casks and kegs soon to be gracing many a local pub cellar.
We made our way back into the bar where shortly afterwards our pizzas arrived from the onsite kitchen and pizza oven. It had been a long day and as James and I tucked in, Ian chatted about his history with Black Sheep Brewery, the beer, brewery, and the plans they had going forward. While we are on the subject of pizza, I can thoroughly recommend the Marmite pizza on offer here… I know this will divide opinion, but it was delicious and well… you’ll just have to take my word on that one.
Again, our visit came to and end and we started the journey home, we had planned to call in at the Stalybridge Buffet Bar which sits right on the station platform. Unfortunately, the train we caught wasn’t calling there, so we comforted ourselves with the spare time we had by calling into both Track and Cloudwater’s taprooms, a short walk from Piccadilly and only 100 yards separating the two! The North really is great, isn’t it?
Huge thanks to the hospitality shown by both Gemma at Magic Rock and Ian at Kirkstall, it was great that now we seem to have finally seen the back of a COVID ruled world to be able to get out and meet people face to face again over a beer and to see these businesses busy and full of punters on the hunt for great beer, a sanctuary and a warm welcome once again.
Brewery visits are tough work, but someone’s got to do it! We are both looking forward to more visits over the spring and summer months.
February that lovely month which signals that we've got through January and brighter days are ahead.
It's the gateway to Spring month and to celebrate, we've got some lovely new, lighter beers in this month.
There is a lot of focus on pale, IPA, golden and bitter this month. Perfect refreshment after a country walk.
There is a definite rural theme this month with 3 beers brewed on a working farm. Our featured brewery is Red Rock, Devon
Have a look at our tasting notes to see who else featured in this months' club and have a go at our pub quiz!
If you're planning to join the Best of British Beer Club yourself or as an amazing gift for someone lucky, you probably want to know what you're going to receive.
Firstly, thanks for considering us. We love choosing new beers every month and the club gets brilliant feedback, which you can have a look at on Feefo or our product page.
The introductory month is always hand selected from our core range of brewers depending on the style of beer you have chosen. We include a glass, beer mats and a welcome brochure which we've linked to below if you would like a sneak preview.
The Beer for a Year club, which is our most popular gives you the option of selecting the next 4 dates and whether it's the club or one of the other monthly versions, we always include a little card that explains to the recipient which style of beer has been chosen and when to expect their next installments. They're then free to change the type of beer or when they're going to have to make some space in the fridge !
All subsequent months have tasting notes, bit of info on our chosen brewery of the month and a pub quiz to enjoy whilst having a beer. These have been really popular with some customers saving them for the family Christmas quiz.
There are lots of our breweries who we struggle to choose our favourite beer to include so you may get more than 1 beer from the same brewery over the course of the subscription but each month it is 12 different breweries and we don't repeat a beer so it would always be a beer we hadn't previously sent to you.
If there's anything else you'd like to know, please just drop us a line or give us a call.
‘Tis the season to be jolly! Get in the festive mood early with a superb advent calendar
We're really proud to have introduced Britain to the first ever beer advent calendar way back in 2013.
The idea came to us as we were driving back from a mid week football match at Tranmere. I don't know whether we were inspired by the bracing sea air on the Wirral, or the fact our team had won and we were a bit giddy.
While the idea was great, our prototype model was far from the finished article. If we're being honest, it was our standard brown transit box but with numbered aerosol caps on the tops of the bottles.
Fast forward 12 months and our first proper advent was nominated for a prize at the UK Packaging Awards ceremony at the Hilton on Park Lane. We were beaten to first place by Kellogg's, who had spent £10,000s developing a new instore display box for cornflakes. With no previous experience of designing anything though, we were pretty chuffed to have come runner up to the world's biggest cereal producer.
Now in its ninth year, the 2021 Best of British Beer advent calendar is ready to go. Designed as always by the brilliant James Miller at Miller and Co and produced by the team at Stoke Packaging, it's available in both craft beer and lager variations.
We realise that beer or lager won’t necessarily be your favourite pre-Christmas pressie, so we’ve put together a list of 5 of our favourite other advent calendars.
Cheese Advent Calendar
We think this is such a good idea! A bit of cheese with your brekkie or to look forward to after tea with some crackers. It offers 8 different flavours of cheddar including a Limited Edition and Brand New flavour, how exciting! The packaging has a very classic Christmas look to it and the colours are very warm and cosy. Maybe this could be paired with a beer or lager advent calendar? It would be a very happy 24 days if you do!
Savoury Snacks Advent Calendar
Don’t we all love having a cheeky snack during the day, a little something tasty to nibble on in between meals. We love this product as all the items included are independent businesses which is similar to what we do. The packaging is simple and classy, perfect for your savoury snacker friend!
Clarins Men's 12 Day Self-Care Advent Calendar
After all those nights of eating and drinking, celebrating a special time of year, you are really going to want to look your best for those funny Christmas photos. We like this calendar because we know that we all need a little self-care every now and then and there’s no better time than Christmas time!
2021 Coffee Advent Calendar
One thing I love about Christmas is getting cosy with a tasty coffee and a good Christmas movie. These calendars come with coffee that is packaged fresh every week in order for you to have the best tasting coffee possible. We like this product because some of their ideals line up with ours as they’re always looking to cut down on waste and making their coffee pouches biodegradable. They also plant tree with every advent calendar sold which is amazing!
Pukka Organic Days of Christmas Advent Calendar
Don’t like coffee? How about some tea! A lovely organic cup a day for the lead up to Christmas to make you feel extra merry inside! We like this brand as similar to the last brand, they sustainably source the card they use for the packaging and it’s also recyclable. The whole product is made using renewable energy which really says, “crafted with care”.
August Monthly Club features beers from the 3 home nations with a focus on Lakeland Brewhouse. Read on to find out more about them and click on the Monthly Club link to find out who is in this months box and try your hand at the pub quiz
The Lakeland Brewhouse (formerly Stringer’s Beer) is based in the South Lakeland market town of Ulverston. It all started with our Head Brewer Jon Kyme, a man with a passion for beer and since 2008 we have been creating a variety of real ales which have become popular with beer aficionados and occasional drinkers alike.
Managing Director Kirsty Ridge acquired the brewery in 2018, and now the female owned brewery’s ales can be found across the North. We combine the best of traditional and modern brewing techniques, using Lakeland water and the finest quality ingredients, to ensure we always produce proper beer. Brewing from our 100% renewably powered brewhouse, and committed to sustainability, saving the planet has never tasted so good.
Our vision is to be one of the UK’s leading environmentally friendly brewers of crafted real ales.
Created using Lakeland water and the best of ingredients, we provide outstanding, ever changing beers, at the forefront of taste in the ever-growing beer industry. We are continually striving to create the highest standing of working environment, and a friendly welcome to our brewhouse.
We are passionate about helping tackle climate change and we are proud to partner with Ecologi. By investing in offsetting our carbon now and in the future, we are encouraging change for the better, and for beer-lovers to be enjoying our beers for generations to come. We also offset the carbon footprint of all of our employees to allow us to have a completely climate positive workforce!
As part of our behind the scenes features, I caught up with Will ( our MD) and Chris ( Commercial Manager) today to find out a bit more about how we choose our beers.
We need to get 10 -12 new beers in most months to deliver something new to our monthly club customers. They’ll never get the same beer twice.
Luckily, there are a huge number of independent breweries in the UK. It’s doubled in the last 10 years so whilst it’s a competitive market it is great for the beer drinker.
- How do you come across new breweries?
Most get in touch with us, but we often get customer recommendations or we spot them on social media. Recommendations are the best as we know it’s already something our customers like. We love events such as Craft Beer Rising to meet lots of new brewers and there’s nothing like sampling them and chatting to the people who make it; so we’re looking forward to those returning.
- Do you sample the beers before listing?
This is essential- we wouldn’t list a beer without trying it. We receive 2-3 boxes per week. In the last few days we’ve seen beer from Cumbria, the South West and Midlands, which is great as we like to have a good geographical split. We like sharing the samples with a select group of customers too, so get in touch if you'd like to be on the panel.
- Do you have a particular type of beer you prefer?
Chris, who still hasn’t met a beer style he doesn’t like is ‘still figuring this out if I’m honest……’
Will likes pale, hoppy and not too strong but it’s not about what we like. We have a great tasting panel between our staff and regular customers.
There is a wide range of beer and cider tastes in the company so there is always someone willing to offer an opinion.
- What do you look for a brewery to demonstrate before you buy from them?
Chris: Honestly, open to chat about prices and products, understand that if we get it right it could be the start of a very fruitful relationship. We also need to know they'll fit into some of our best selling cases. Our customers trust us to hand pick and curate cases, It's a lot of responsibility to make sure they're really pleased with the beers we choose so new breweries need to fit into those styles.
Will: Apart from quality and taste? good back story, decent labels, heritage and history for established brewers and quality and consistency from start ups
- What would put you off immediately?
Chris: When they send you one price list, then when you say no thanks they hit you with another that’s much cheaper, either send your best prices the first time or have a conversation with us about what we both need to make it work. We always check out independent reviews on rating websites as well to see what the beer drinkers think of the quality.
We often get asked how much we’ll pay and we don’t feel comfortable with this as everyone has different costs and pricing models. We don’t want to tell anyone their business. It’s best just to consider that we’ll buy in pallets so don’t give us a price that you would give someone that you need to deliver a couple of cases to each week.
Will: The label- anything in bad taste or sexist. It is surprising that we still see this sometimes and it wouldn't matter how good the beer is inside. We wouldn't get past the design.
- Which breweries do you think fit our customer profile perfectly?
Our customers like quite traditional, bottle or can conditioned and award winners all from small/independent breweries run by lovely people, so I’ll go with…
Weal (about as small as you can get, local to us, bottle conditioned, very award winning)
Stonehouse…. beers great, relationship is great!
Windsor & Eton - they represent a lot of what we stand for
Scottish – There is a lot of good stuff coming from up north at the moment and we’re loving Loch Lomond, Cold Town and Redcastle
- Do you have a particular beer you reach for?
Chris: If in a pub/bottle shop and they had any Tiny Rebel I’d go for that.
If here… too many to choose from but if forced to name something and we had any in I’d go for a Salopian Black label, specifically Dewdrops.
Will: I like variety but sessionable and pale are essential for me. Love a really juicy IPA
- Without naming names, can you give me an example of someone really getting it right
Chris: In terms of working with a really good example recently, Lenton Lane, really keen to work with us and wanted to offer a deal that could work for us both…. Which it has and their beers are great.
In terms of beers, we’ve mentioned them before but Loch Lomond brewery- beautifully designed cans, good range of beers and all incredibly good consistent quality.
Will: I like working with Jem from Cheddar- consistent, quick turnaround on delivery ,bottle conditioned, award winning and lovely people.
Mobberley are producing some great beers at the moment. I love their Nothing Stops DDH IPA
- Do you have a brewery you’re looking forward to visit now we’re able to get back out again?
Will: We have really missed getting out and about this year, so we’ve got a road trip round our favourite Scottish breweries planned for June with a stop at the Lakes on the way up. Our daughter loves a brewery trip, especially when they have a dog!
Chris: Any and all really, but Cheddar, Glamorgan, Backyard and lots of Manchester such as Cloudwater and Track
- Favourite beer or brewery back story
Will: There are so many as most breweries have a back story and we’re always interested in how small businesses are born.
The Tynt Meadow story is pretty special and we love the fact it’s the only British Trappist beer. The monks aspire to produce work that is ‘creative, joyful and of the highest quality’ Those are values we hold dearly ourselves.
Chris: I admire Weal ales, both made redundant, like beer but never brewed it, put all the payout into setting up a brewery and quickly managed to brew multiple award winning beers having never done it before, then gone onto open their own pub.
Also the tale in regards to Jemima’s Pitchfork is lovely.