I am a pub creature at heart. While I always keep plenty of beers that veer from the exceedingly interesting to the sublimely refreshing in my fridge, draught pints are what satisfy me most of all.
What lockdown changed for me is that I now always like to keep a surplus of a reliable favourite in the house for those moments when there’s nowhere you’d rather be than curled up on your sofa, or sitting in the garden crushing a few tins.
West Coast IPA being mostly my go-to style, in Elusive Brewing’s Oregon Trail I’ve found a fridge filler that’s become a more-or-less permanent addition to my stash. The way it balances sticky malts with piney, resinous hops in a bittersweetly perfect way that is resolutely West Coast is virtually unparalleled by UK brewers at present. Each time I crack a can it’s like being transported to North Park, San Diego, and for that I am always thankful.
Another brewery that’s been really nailing the West Coast style recently is London’s Rock Leopard. So when I discovered these two breweries had teamed up on a new West Coaster called Pining for Change, I jumped at the chance to try it. The good news is that not only did it not disappoint, but it also landed itself on a little rolling spreadsheet I keep open most of the time titled “potential beers of the year”.
Yes, it’s that good. If you appreciate the West Coast style, this will tick all the boxes. It drips with zesty grapefruit and candied orange, with a characteristic nibble of pine resin lurking, ensuring it’s never too sweet. Amarillo, Chinook, Citra and Simcoe hops do most of the heavy lifting here. But I’m pleased to see new US variety Talus holding its own, adding a little spice and tropical character to the mix.
This is a fitting beer for my centennial review (apart from the fact the Centennial hop variety is sadly absent) because it’s a beer made by two small, but increasingly significant breweries. Elusive, founded by Andy Parker, has just celebrated its fifth birthday, and despite still being small, the quality of the beers it produces are world class. In Rock Leopard, owner Stacey Ayeh has established one of the most exciting young breweries in the UK. To see them come together so spectacularly like this is not only heart-warming, but it fills me with confidence that the best of British brewing is yet to come.
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box and you'll find incredible beers like this one every month, plus more great writing from Matthew and our food writer Claire Bullen.