Earlier this year I had the pleasure of serving beers alongside Dave Stone, one of the owners and directors of Wylam, and Ben Wilkinson, their head brewer and all round good guy, at Hop City in Leeds. Their enthusiasm and infectious personalities make it impossible not to love these guys and I had a blast serving their excellent beer and chewing the fat with them both.
It was here that I first heard of Wylam’s intentions to release a collaboration that would go on to be called the Northern Powerhouse. It instantly piqued my interest but when I heard that it was to be eight different beers, each brewed with a different brewery based in the north of England, I was incredibly excited to see what would be produced – the north is a hotbed of quality craft beer right now!
I set myself the challenge of avoiding any details of the range, I wanted to go into them all with no preconceptions or expectations except to experience top quality beers. Somehow, despite social media doing its very best to try and spoil my party, I managed to get to last weekend without having my plan foiled.
Thanks to Rob Doyle over at the excellent online bottle shop Hoptimism I had the boxset delivered in time for the weekend and safely nestled in the fridge, chilling and awaiting my verdict. So here was the plan – I would pick one beer at random from the fridge and consume. No messing about planning beers by style or ABV, this was going to be lucky dip at its finest. As it was a Friday night and with nowhere to be the following day, I was confident I would sample all eight beers, fuelled by a healthy (!) dose of takeaway food and glasses of water to refresh my palate.
Each beer is numbered from 001 to 008 so I can at least tell how out of their intended order I am… but before I dive into the tasting notes, I can’t emphasise enough how stunning these cans look. It’s a bit of a cliché but we do drink with our eyes. The cans all follow a distinct theme with their own region and identity being represented on the label in a colourful, eye-catching style. The effort being put into labelling right now across the sector is to be applauded.
Enough chit-chat, it’s beer o’clock…
Wylam x Box Social – 008 DIPA
Wylam x Hawkshead – 006 DDH Pale Ale
Wylam x Northern Monk – 007 India Pale Ale
Wylam x Buxton – 001 Chocolate Chip Vanilla Imperial Stout
Wylam x Cloudwater – 002 Strong Brown Ale
Wylam x Black Lodge – 003 Mixed Fermentation Fruited Farmhouse
Wylam x Magic Rock – 005 Forest Fruit Kettle Sour
Wylam x Thornbridge – 004 American Wheat
Overall, the quality of the breweries on display has really shone through – at a time when I’m loving adjunct heavy imperial stouts and insanely hopped DIPAs, I was a little surprised that our three favourites (Magic Rock, Hawkshead and Thornbridge) were at the lower end of the ABV spectrum. But then, I should never be surprised by the ability of these breweries as the UK is producing some of the best beer in the world right now.
This series of beers can only help to highlight just how much of that talent is focussed here in the north. Given the range of styles, the excellent packaging and what we feel is excellent value for a product of this quality we believe this is truly a Northern Powerhouse.
You can pick up a case of all eight beers at Hoptimism and if you enter the discount code CRAFTANDSLICE, you’ll get 10% off your order! Don’t say we’re not good to you!