Ad Hop Brewing, Liverpool
Small craft brewer based near the University of Liverpool dedicated to “innovative and enjoyable beers”. Ad Hop was born in The 23 Club, the great little craft beer hotspot below The Clove Hitch restaurant in Hope Street. Its beers have included Kev-the-Beard, a tribute to The 23 Club’s majestically bearded bartender Kev Curlett.
Black Lodge Brewery, Liverpool
The newest brewer on our list , and unique – because the brewery sits out in the bar itself. The brewing kit sits at the back of the industrial-style Black Lodge, tucked away down a Baltic Triangle side street, and it will produce limited edition beers that will change with the seasons and according to which collaborators the in-house team are working with at the time. It’s got a good pedigree too, with connections to The 23 Club and Liverpool Craft Beer Co.
Brimstage Brewery, Wirral
Unlike some more experimental breweries that like to try making new ales, Brimstage focuses on a small, core range of beers. And crucially, that range includes what might be Wirral’s favourite beer – Trapper’s Hat , which makes up the majority of its business. When it opened in 2006 it was the first brewery in Wirral since the former Birkenhead Brewery shut in the 1960s. It’ll soon be celebrating its 1,000th brew – and will even be creating a new beer to mark the occasion.
Britman Craft Beers, Neston
In the stables at Burton Manor, Wirral, Les Ward and Julie Perkins set up Britman to make three traditional British ales - "A beautiful location to make beautiful beer", they call it. Its ales are the 4.6% Golden Ale, 4.4% Best Bitter and 4.2% London Porter , and they're currently available at the Burleydam Garden Centre and the Elephant Lounge and Bar in Parkgate, as well as Chester's Handbridge Pub.
Connoisseur Ales, St Helens
This young St Helens brewery is a family business, launched last year by Gillian, Mark, and Kevin Yates. Its ales have included The Usual, a traditional English ale, the deep, rich and malty Mr Benn, wheat beer Sparkling Wit and the fruity and unsurprisingly red Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby. If you want to find out more about the brewing world, Connoisseur also hosts regular open days, with two coming up on Saturday 12 and Saturday 19 December.
George Wright Brewery, Rainford
This Rainford firm is one of our oldest microbreweries, having rolled out its first barrels in 2003. Its best-known brews include the popular, fruity and malty Cheeky Pheasant, the light and sweet Blonde Moment and the dry pale Drunken Duck. Every year it also produces a range of seasonal ales – three 2015 Hop Fusion ales sold out swiftly, and its fourth and final effort, made with Chinook and Marynka hops, has almost sold out. Its beers are available in pubs throughout the region and in its own Emporium of Beers shop in St Helens, from where you can buy fresh beer on tap as well as bottles from around the world.
Liverpool Craft Beer Co, Kirkdale/Baltic
From beneath a railway arch just north of the city centre, Liverpool Craft has been quietly building a national reputation since it was launched by Paul Seiffert and Terry Langton in 2010. Most brewers here focus on real ales served via handpump, but Liverpool Craft has seen its greatest success flow into kegs. Without getting into the sometimes heated craft ale versus real ale debate, craft ales are beers that can be served cold and fizzy on keg, rather than (or as well as) at room temperature via handpumps. And Liverpool Craft’s best-known ale is the crisp, citrus and tropical fruit Love Lane Pale Ale , available cold and fizzy on tap at discerning bars throughout the city. As Paul told me this year, “More people probably know the name Love Lane Pale than know the name of the brewery”. But Liverpool Craft also brews plenty of bottled and cask beers too, including the deliciously crisp and floral Quokka. Its team also help organise the brilliant Liverpool Craft Beer Expo.
Liverpool Organic Brewery, Kirkdale
Perhaps the biggest and best-known name on this list, Liverpool Organic’s ales are a staple at so many pubs throughout the city that it has almost taken over from Cains as the city’s most popular brewery. Its ales range from a traditional Best Bitter through to its Imperial Russian Stout, rich with liquorice, coffee chocolate flavours, and a great end-of-the-night treat at 7.4%. The Heroes of Liverpool range includes Josephine Butler Elderflower Ale, floral, fruity and refreshing, and the sweet and rich Kitty Wilkinson chocolate and vanilla stout.
It even brought back Higson’s ale for a couple of years, while it bought Knowsley’s Cambrinus Craft Brewery in 2011 and continues to bre its ales. But Organic’s influence goes beyond its own brewing – the company’s beer festival arm now dominates the local scene, with twice-yearly festivals in St George’s Hall, Liverpool’s Bombed-Out Church and Waterloo’s Old Christ Church. And owner Mark Hensby’s success goes beyond the world of real ale – sister companies include Liverpool Gin and the Liverpool Nut Company.
Mad Hatter Brewing Company, Baltic Triangle, Liverpool
The passionate Gaz and Sue Matthew are at the helm of what has to be the UK’s most interesting breweries, with an ever-changing range of often experimental ales to tantalise the tastebuds. Its best-known beers include the ultra-hoppy Penny Lane Pale – quarter-finalists in our Beer World Cup last year – and its strong Belgian-style Redrum. But they’ve produced a bewildering range of ales with unusual and often brilliant-tasting combinations – its Drink Me Smoky Bacon Banana, for example, had all the full flavours of those two ingredients with no bacon or banana amongst its ingredients. And this year its Tzatziki Sour – that’s right, a beer inspired by the Greek yoghurt and cucumber dip – has won rave reviews. All their bottled beers come with colourful and striking labels, usually (but not always) featuring a crazy rabbit. To see what beers they’ve got on sale at the moment, check out their Instagram page – but if you see one you like, get it quickly, because it might just sell out.
Melwood Beer Co, Knowsley Park
When The Cambrinus Brewery in Knowsley Park was bought by Liverpool Organic Brewery, John and Julie Marsden seized the chance to move into its old premises and open their own brewery. The husband-and-wife team opened Melwood in 2013 and offer beers including the super-fruity yet hoppy Citradelic and the lightly floral Love Light, a hit for me at the recent St Helens Beer Festival . Melwood has also worked closely with Liverpool Guild of Students, helping organise its May beer festival and even creating a real ale, Sphinx Pale Ale , for sale in the Guild’s Sphinx bar.
Neptune Brewery, Maghull
Newcomer Neptune was founded this year by Les O’Grady in Maghull. Its beers include Triton pale ale , with its refreshing citrus bite – there’ll be more in the pubs before Christmas – and Abyss oatmeal stout. The newest beer under Neptune’s trident logo is King of the Sea, a best bitter brewed with Chinook and Centennial hops. Refreshingly, Les doesn’t use isinglass (fish bladder) to clear his beers, meaning they’re suitable for vegetarians and vegans too.
Parker Brewery, Southport
Richard Parker opened his Southport brewery in 2014 after 17 years working for wine merchants and vowed to “build a stylish brand synonymous with quality”. The Parker Brewery’s striking bottle labels would stand out anywhere, with their colourful warriors bursting off your shelf. There’s Dark Spartan Stout, Saxon Red Ale, Viking Blonde, Barbarian Bitter and Centurion Pale Ale, which I very much enjoyed from the fridge at Southport’s Inn Beer Shop in September . The beers are available in bottles and on draught throughout Sefton and West Lancashire, as well as in Liverpool’s Baltic Social.
Peerless Brewing Co, Birkenhead
Wirral’s biggest (micro) brewery Peerless keeps growing its business in Merseyside and around the UK. Led by the always-enthusiastic Steve Briscoe, its core range includes Peerless pale, Red Rocks, and strong ale Full Whack – all award-winners. For something a bit different, try its Jinja Ninja ginger effort – also an award-winner. And its Oatmeal Stout is now up for a national award after being named the North West’s best bottled beer by the Society of Independent Brewers – you get the picture. Peerless has grown sales by some 30% each year since it opened in 2009, and this year the company doubled the size of its Birkenhead plant . As well as its real ales, Peerless has also launched a craft keg lager, Storr, which has become a favourite with drinkers at pubs including the West Kirby Tap.
Red Star Brewery, Formby
This new star is already shining bright in the brewing world after scooping a top award just months after its launch. Weissbeer, brewed at Red Star’s Formby base, scooped the Gold Award in the Specialist beers category at the Society of Independent Brewers’ North West annual awards, and is now in contention for the national title. Its Partizan ale has attracted interest in Serbia – the fiercely contested Red Star Belgrade v Partizan Belgrade football match is known as Serbia’s Eternal derby. And Red Star even brewed a special beer, Viva La Casa, in honour of red star-adorned Hope Street bar The Casa.
Rock the Boat Brewery, Little Crosby
“Life is too short to drink poor quality ale”, Rock the Boat Brewery says. From its home in picturesque Little Crosby, it has created four core beers – Dazzle pale golden ale, the pale malty Mussel Wreck, the blonde Liverpool Light and the smooth malty Bootle Bull bitter . They’re all designed to be session ales you could stay on all night, easy drinking and under 4%. And they’re available at pubs across Crosby, Waterloo and Liverpool.
Southport Brewery, Southport
After more than a decade in business, Southport Brewery’s beers are firm favourites along the Sefton coast and way inland. The company was founded in 2004 by Paul Bardsley and its offerings include popular bitters Sandgrounder and Golden Sands, as well as Southport RFC tribute Ruck and Maul. In August it released a new beer – Black 5 Stout, brewed “to remember the age of steam” with beech smoked malt.
Stamps Brewery, Kirkdale
It may be a sister company to popular bars Stamps in Crosby and Stamps Too in Waterloo, but Stamps Brewery’s beers bear a Liverpool postcode. The firm, based in a Kirkdale business centre, produces ales including Flying Cloud saison, ruby red The Russian and the citrus-hinted Swedish Blond, all with pumpclips adorned with appropriate historic stamps. The beers are sold at Stamps and Stamps Too, with any spare capacity going to local bars. Stamps is also proud of its green credentials – it’s powered by solar panels, heated by a biomass boiler, and its used grain is fed to pigs at a city farm.
Wapping Brewery (Baltic Fleet pub), Liverpool
It’s all change at the Baltic Fleet as there’s no longer going to be a full time brewer position at the Wapping brewery in its cellars, though Summer Ale will still be brewed on site and should always be available upstairs. The Baltic Fleet pub is always worth a visit – get there before Christmas to try some of Angus’s winter ales.
3 Potts Brewing Co, Southport
Husband and wife team Simon and Shona Potts opened their own “nanobrewery” behind their Southport house earlier this year. At the moment they’re brewing after work and at weekends, but Simon told the Southport Visiter he hopes brewing will eventually become his full-time job. Its ales are Sprocket IPA and Turbine double IPA - look out for them at local stores including Tap and Bottles in Southport and Crosby Bottle Beer Shop.