The best of British

I've been reading an article in Imbibe magazine recently by Pete Brown, chair of British Guild of Beer Writers. It's all about giving British beer the credit it deserves.

For those who haven't come across it, it's main theme is that we live in magnificent times - more breweries and beer styles than you can shake a stick at but that in all of this choice, our own brewing tradition is being forgotten.

Apparently not one of the top 10 bestselling beer brands in Britain is British in origin or British owned. The majority of our biggest craft breweries favour international styles of beer over traditional styles.

The irony seems to be though that the majority of these continental beers originated from British beers and breweries, our pale ales and porters were celebrated and their recipes stolen to create beers that are now being sold back to us.

When we started brewing, we had the grand idea of using only British malts and hops, mainly because beers like Landlord and Theakstons XB were our preferred style of beer. Alain's always had a tendency to go to the dark side so milds, porters and stouts will always play a large part in the recipes we produce.

We soon realised though that we were limiting ourselves and that there were some amazing American, New World and European hops to play with but we've always kept to getting our malt from a traditional British maltings.

Given the rich brewing history in Carlisle, the heritage of British beer was always of importance to us too, hence Carlisle Best Bitter and Carlisle Nut Brown.

I know that the diversity of beer available is absolutely fantastic and that it has brought a whole new generation to the joy of drinking real ale and that has to be celebrated but I really hope that CAMRA, brewers and pubs can encourage that new generation (and some of the older lot) to enjoy a good pint of traditional British beer.

It could be that we may be coming full circle though. US brewers are apparently buying half the British fuggles and goldings harvests. 'Session beers' are now the fastest growing style in America so we may find that our own brewers come back round to a more traditional style too eventually.

I reckon that given the top five beers of this year's Solway CAMRA beer festival weren't the double hopped IPAs or the super strong continental style beers but the stouts and brown ales, it may be that change may be already happening.

I definitely agree with Pete Brown though when I quote 'If we turn away and deny our own tradition, we turn off a big flow that's been going into the global creative mash tun. And if that happens, the whole global brewing scene is diminished.'