London - Despite a decline in beer sales, British brewing is enjoying a renaissance, with craft or artisan brewers flourishing in the UK. For thirsty travellers, it means the opportunity to find out what goes on behind the scenes on a brewery tour that will almost certainly end with a taste or two.
It is difficult to pin down what exactly constitutes “craft beer”. The Campaign for Real Ale has decided that the term describes “beer with a distinctive flavour brewed by artisans”. It is a fittingly vague definition when you consider the range of options. It can be used to describe a microbrewery such as Coniston Brewing Company (conistonbrewery.com), based at the Black Bull pub in the Lake District, and major players such as Meantime (meantimebrewing.com).
The latter has just opened a visitors’ centre in its recently expanded Greenwich brewery, which offers a range of tours of its state-of-the art facility, including a Pie and Pint option.
Founded by German-born Petra Wetzel-Stewart, the West Brewery in Glasgow (westbeer.com), is one of the few woman-run breweries in the UK and the only one to produce beer according to the German purity law of Reinheitsgebot that allows only water, yeast, barley and hops.
A 45-minute tour costs £11.55 (about R156), including four or five beer samples.
Grain Brewery in Harleston (grainbrewery.co.uk), Norfolk, has recently been renovated and tripled its capacity. Groups of 10 or more can tour the converted dairy for free as long as you take a bottle or two from the shop home with you.
The Beer School at the acclaimed Lovibonds Brewery, Henley-on-Thames (lovibonds.com) started on September 22.
A two-hour session, led by founder and head brewer Jeff Rosenmeier, includes a tour explaining the brewing process, followed by a tutored tasting of the brewery’s beers (£19.50).
Established in 2007, the Association of Welsh Independent Brewers (awib.org.uk) has 32 members, including the award-winning Purple Moose Brewery, Porthmadog (purplemoose.co.uk), whose range of beers includes Dark Side of the Moose and where tours can be arranged in advance (£5).
Discover how Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell (thornbridge brewery.com), makes its eclectic range of beers that includes the delicious and unusual Kill Your Darlings, a Vienna-style dark lager, during a 90-minute tour (Wednesdays at 1pm and 3pm; £7.50), which concludes with a tasting of two halves of beer. – The Independent on Sunday