There’s an idea among the biggest multinational brewers that to be “craft” is to ensure part of your offering is a hazy, hoppy beer with little or no bitterness, brewed to a sensible ABV.
This kind of thing is the mainstay of most small independent breweries, so the idea from the giants is if they do it well enough, and make it readily available and affordable, then there will be no need for the placated drinker to look further afield for something a little different.
However, for me there’s something of a naivety to this plan. Because, sure, you can take a recipe, scale it up, stick a skull on the can, pile the shelves high and it’ll sell well. But you’ll also lose something almost intangible, but still very much there – the idea of regionality, or locality.
After a good 10 years of exciting growth, modern beer is currently in a state of flux, and in a few years I wager it’ll probably look a little different to how it does now. But one thing that I see emerging from that is an increasing significance in the role provenance plays in beer. The idea that beers taste a little different depending on where they’re brewed, what ingredients they use and who they are brewed by will be key to the survival of small, local breweries, as the very largest try their best to copy what they do.
One region that is currently making a real mark for itself in modern beer is Birmingham. Anyone from the city and surrounding areas will be quick to tell you about the exciting things being brewed there from the likes of Dig Brew Co, Green Duck and Glasshouse – a delightful pale ale from the latter being the subject of today’s review. And yet Birmingham hasn’t yet produced a modern brewery to rival the excitement of, say, Cloudwater, Verdant or The Kernel.
After tasting today’s beer, I have a feeling that’s about to change. At 5.4%, Poetic Differences is a pale ale that sits right in the Goldilocks zone of flavour and sessionability. Its notes of orange zest and freshly-pulped mango cascade in a gentle wave that finishes dry and easy. But it doesn’t just feel like another clone of so many other pale ales. There’s a Midlands-ness to it, something
that’s difficult to put your finger on, but it's there. A little point of curiosity that will make you come back to this brewery’s beers time and again.
Don’t miss out on Glasshouse (or any of the other exciting Birmingham breweries) now they’re finally becoming more readily available. And once lockdown ends, make sure you pick a date to visit a city that’s rapidly emerging as one of the best places for beer in the country.
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.