One such place to make a good first impression is Rocky Head, based in South West London, with their imaginatively named ‘Pale Ale’. This is a relative rarity in bars and shops at the moment but if you find it is certainly worth a go. It looks great - an appetising shade of orangey gold, with a frothy head, and the aroma is punchy and fresh, full of marmalade and burnt lemon tart, with an interesting note of tomato vine. There is also plenty to enjoy on the palate; a pretty brutal, heady whack of alcohol, a long dry rasping bitterness and chewy tomato and marmalade which offers a touch of sweetness. It may be a little unrefined – the alcohol is dominant, the hops are subdued giving the beer loads of bitterness without a lot of complexity or fresh hop character, and it’s a bit too dry. But this is still an impressive debut, for its ambition, flavour and lack of brewing faults.
Even better though, are some pale ales from Bermondsey. Partizan beers are still quite difficult to find (unless you visit the brewery on a Saturday) but give it a few months and they will be everywhere. The combination of cool looking bottles and the use of in-vogue hops will get you some attention, but you can only keep it with quality beer, and judging by their early efforts there will be a steady stream of it. A Citra, Pacific Jade and Cascade pale ale at 5.1% was incredibly clean, with plenty of hop character and a pleasing bitterness, all delivered through a light, nicely carbonated body that gave the beer real crispness. A Cascade and Wakatu hopped 6.1% pale ale was bigger and better, with the warmth of the alcohol providing a more interesting foil to the bitterness. A strong malt backbone that delivered biscuits and dry toast to the palate was balanced nicely by a long bitter finish and lemony, grassy hops. The body was too thin for the bitterness and the alcohol, but it is a minor error in a very decent beer. For their sake and ours, let’s hope these clever new breweries don’t get second album syndrome. If they don’t, they can look forward to plenty of our money over the coming years.