On one hand, you have industrial beer. A lot of focus on the financial turnover, not so much on personality.
On the other, you have craft beer and they never cease to amaze me. Micro-breweries rarely plan on making a fortune. It might happen and that’s great but at first, there is passion for taste. Their luxury is time: giving the beer those extra few weeks that will infuse it with amazing flavours. They may only make 200 bottles of a particular batch but oh, will it be worth it.
Here is a new name for you to look out for: the Earth Ale Brewery.
Alex Lewis is 26 years old but quite a full life already. Rather an extraordinary chef. Loves, loves travels and learning. He even spent two months training at Noma before going to San Francisco and later Cape Town. He worked in amazing kitchens along the way, including one in a vineyard – vegetables and fruit growing on site, picking figs from the tree… As a hobby, he starts making beer. From his love of foraging come ideas – why not add herbs from the garden like sage? Cranberries? A beer loyal to the local terroir, infused with ingredients found during long walks in the countryside – hence the muddy boots on the logo, memories of little treasures picked up along the path, even mushroom picking in the South of France. In the wild – constant source of inspiration. After all, in medieval times, there was medicinal beer. The Egyptians used honey too – mead is also on Alex’s list, which he would serve in champagne bottles, to be shared between friends rather than a small bottle each.
Convinced, he came back to London to start the Earth Ale Brewery. Three beers will be on the market soon. The Spicy Weiss uses Mittelfruh hop and guess what? Coriander and cardamom. The first sip reminded me of champagne and caramel. Then gooseberry and spices gently took over, still with a remarkable crispiness. The American Amber, with Cascade and Summit hops, is all about malt and dark chocolate. It’s difficult to let it roll on your tongue, you just want more straight away! Be patient, it will dance towards toffee, fruits and even lemongrass. Add to this a surprising touch of smokiness. The last one, Dandy Stout, really deserves a blind tasting. You could say it’s a breakfast beer – roasted coffee, cacao, caramel. The intensity of a stout without the bitterness. Its secret? Kent Golding hops and dandelions. Our grandmothers used to make a kind of coffee replacement with these plants, after all… I love, love, love that they are full of flavours but you can go from one to another without feeling saturated – they complement each other really very nicely. I can see how easy it would be to drink them all afternoon long.
A fantastic purity of taste by the way. A real palette of flavours, very umami, balanced, comforting, an intense satisfaction. A fine lace of bubbles that tickles the tongue. If many breweries use Irish Moss (nothing natural, purely chemical. I hear it is named for its colour) to get rid of impurities, Alex prefers to stay closer to the ingredients and give a little more time – the fermentation process will work it out. Ideally the range will go to 4, adding a limited edition based on seasonal ingredients. The first one will use… pine sap and needles and I simply can’t wait to try it!
Alex has another dream: organise dinners in the brewery with beer-based cocktails (the recipes are all sorted out, I hope he needs an extra taster), a 10-course menu, matched with his beers. Quite an experience.
For the Earth Ale Brewery, the adventure has just begun. It won’t be long before you see it on the shelves of the best stockists in town. Mark my words!