Share a Drink with... Matthew Curtis

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The ‘Share a Drink with…’ series are meant to bring some of the brightest writers in the beer industry to our shop displays. Their articles give you an idea of what they are thinking, what they are drinking and how to pair some of the great beverages available on the market. As a commitment to their taste, we add their selection to our shelves for you to enjoy.

At the risk of sounding like a broken-record, I’m convinced there’s never been a better time to be a beer drinker. With over 2500 homegrown breweries in the UK, along with countless others overseas, the choice out there is somewhat bewildering. But instead of being perplexed by this choice I find myself excited. Who knows what undiscovered delights are still out there to be tasted?

What thrills me even more is that this choice extends beyond simply beer. As the beer industry progresses, so do accompanying cultures such as cider. This little selection I’ve put together might only represent a fraction of what’s happening within these cultures, but it’s one that reflects my current drinking habits accurately.

DONZOKO HELLES

Drinks writers have long predicted a return to a fondness for crisp and flavourful lagers, such as those found in the European regions of Bavaria and Bohemia. Over the past 12 months this has occurred with gusto. Many brewers are now combining the exacting art of traditional lager brewing with modern techniques. Great lager never really went away, but now it’s adapting to excite a whole new wave of beer fans.

In Hartlepool lives one of the UK’s brightest young beer talents in Reece Hugill, sole-owner and brewer at Donzoko Brewing. While many of his peers concentrate on producing myriad special and one-off beers, Reece has been honing his art by his flagship lager, Northern Helles. As a beer it’s not quite traditional and not quite modern—and that’s what makes it so intriguing. Northern Helles is snappy, bready and refreshing, with an underlying complexity you can’t quite put your finger on.

OLIVER’S GOLD RUSH #6

Just as lager had its moment to shine over the last year, now I expect cider to do the same. And I’m not talking about the sweet, fizzy stuff you’ll find on the majority of bars around the UK. I’m talking real, sometimes called natural or low-intervention cider. The kind that’s 100% apple juice, is often matured in oak barrels and fermented using the yeast that lives on the apple skins itself. The kind of cider that has the depth and complexity of wine, married with the drinkability of beer.

And so I once again turn to the ciders of Tom Oliver. A pioneering legend in the cider world, Tom’s ciders are the best place for any budding cider enthusiast to start their journey. Gold Rush #6 is a tart, and authentically Herefordshire style cider made in collaboration with New York’s Angry Orchard. It’s the perfect introduction to real cider.

BURNING SKY SAISON A LA PROVISION

In a generation we’ll look back at the work of Burning Sky Brewery—led by founder Mark Tranter and his team of five—and realise how it changed brewing in the UK forever. While this Sussex brewery does produce a range of more commonly available pale ales and IPAs, it’s in their wild fermented and wood-aged beers that their legacy will exist.

These are beers which bewitch the senses with acidity and tannins that blur the line between what is beer and what is wine. And it all started with Saison à la Provision. It was the first beer Burning Sky brewed, but it wasn’t the first they released. Instead it spent 3 months maturing in a large oak vat known as foudre. Within this vessel a specially chosen blend of yeast and bacteria added layers of tartness and complexity, creating a truly special beer. One that’s thankfully available regularly, and in plentiful supply.

Matthew Curtis is an award -winning writer and photographer. His voice is amongst the most respected in the industry , always asking relevant , burning questions and bringing strong, engaging opinions to the debate.

You can find his work on totalales.co.uk or his new adventure - Pellicle Magazine, due to launch online on May 1st. Give him a follow on Instagram and Twitter @totalcurtis

Photography Credit: @niccipeet

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