One of the greatest things about relocating to the northwest of England has been the shift in perspective it’s given me.
As a former Londoner of 15 years, my time there shaped my view of the UK, and that includes its beer culture. It’s fair to say that being immersed in the explosion of London breweries that emerged over the past decade (increasing from just 10 to over 140 in that time) gave me plenty to be excited about. Dare I say it, I might have even been a little biased towards beer in the capital as a result.
Living in Manchester for the past year has changed this. The beer scene here is spectacular, and while I admit a lot of that is just based on how fresh and new it all feels, there are things about the beer culture here that the North just does better. Take cask ale, for example. While London is home to a few gems serving exemplary cask like, say, The Harp, or The Southampton Arms, in Manchester I’m pretty confident of walking into almost any pub and being served a pint of cask in a sparkling clean glass, in sensational condition and potentially from a small, local brewery I haven’t even heard of yet.
There’s something to be said for getting out of your comfort zone and getting a different slant on how folks do things. And I think that feeling is more prescient than ever after the pandemic has forced us to be very stationary.
However, this can of beer from Howling Hops was a reminder to me that relocating has also shifted elements of my life that were once familiar to something a little more unusual. Thanks to its vibrantly juicy, hazy pales and IPAs and its amazing Tank Bar in Hackney Wick, Howling Hops was a pretty regular fixture for me. Up here in the North, however, it’s not a brewery you really see.
This is a shame because the beer it makes is fantastic, and this pale ale is the perfect example of that. It’s hopped with North American Idaho-7 hops, which deliver big, ripe tropical flavours, with a little citrus pithiness creeping around the edges to balance it all out, enhancing both juiciness and drinkability. A neat, dry finish keeps this pale ale in the crushable category. Sure it’s 5.9%, but you’d want a pint of it, such is the speed at which it evaporates from your glass.
Beer and its inherent regionality is a pretty special thing, and sipping this pale took me right back to those years down south I remember so fondly. I guess this is a reminder that, as valuable as broadening your horizons can be, we should never take the familiar for granted.
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.