I love it when breweries kick on, especially when this involves releasing a beer that comes out of nowhere and knocks my little cotton socks off.
One brewery to do that recently has been Newcastle’s Full Circle, which has hoisted itself up from the role of a newcomer, making an effort to assert its presence, and now feels like it’s deservedly taking a place as one of the most exciting young brewing prospects in the UK.
I’ve been writing about beer for more than a decade and during this time I’ve seen the number of UK breweries more than double. New breweries often present a sense of both optimism and trepidation; a confidence that they’re capable of making something delicious, but worried about finding enough thirsty customers who’ll buy it all.
Perhaps the greatest challenge presented to this latest round of newcomers is a lack of original ideas. Or to put it better: the tendency to latch on to an original idea that quickly became popular among enthusiasts, and a resulting feeling that, if this idea isn’t pursued with abandon, an opportunity to capture the zeitgeist will be forever lost.
The New England-style IPA is the prime culprit here, and over the years I have tried many produced by UK breweries which I’d describe as “bang average”. I’ll be honest and admit when I first tried a beer from Full Circle – albeit a small sample at a beer festival – it did not have the necessary deliciousness to lodge itself in my consciousness. You’ll be pleased to hear, then, they’ve come a long way since that first taste – and this is what I mean when I say I love to see a brewery kick on…
Half Nelson (with a hop bill that’s 50% Nelson Sauvin, 50% Citra) is a superb example of a brewery that has put time, effort and thought into its beers. While there’s a nice undertone of tropical and citrus character from the American Citra hops, the NZ Nelson Sauvin is the real star of the show. The hop shines with a beautiful “Sauvy B” character; gooseberry and passion fruit being the two flavours that stick in your mind. The malts here are delicate and don’t get in the way of a hop burst that’s intense, yet still dry enough to keep this beer infinitely chuggable.
It’s a treat to see a brewery go from strength to strength, and this is concrete proof that Full Circle is one of those doing so. It also has an exciting mixed fermentation/sour beer program, so if you enjoy this IPA, go and check out some big bottles next time you’re getting a few special beers in.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.