Top beer sommelier says craft beer revolution becoming more mainstream

Craft beer is being taken more seriously in the UK market evidenced by its growing prominence in circles formerly restricted solely to wine, says one of the country’s top beer sommeliers.

A new addition to this year’s London Wine Fair is the Brewhouse area, which features craft brewers from the UK as well as abroad, and was overseen by Sophie Atherton, the UK’s first female beer sommelier and winner of last year’s Beer Sommelier of the Year award.

“Craft beer is a movement; a revolution,” said Atherton.  A revolution independent merchants and the on-trade are getting behind, which is why having a craft beer area is such a great addition to the London Wine Fair this year, she added.

Atherton said: “Craft beer is wanting to take the best of the beer cultures from around the world in order to raise the quality of the beer produced.”

“By doing things like food and beer pairings- this helps to move beer beyond just the pint that you have at the end of the day. We need to elevate beer and to keep it elevated,” said Atherton.

She looks to other beer cultures for ideas to help keep the momentum that is currently behind craft beer going. In the United States, where the craft beer movemen is in full swing, it is not as rare to have a beer and food matching, and “people will pay a premium for the experience,” said Atherton.

Proper stemware for craft beer is philosophy Atherton fully endorses - similar to different wine glasses for different types of wine - and following on from Belgian beer culture. “I am not personally a huge Belgian style beer drinker, but the culture of beer drinking there is great. They have the appropriate stemware that allows for aromas depending on the style to really be expressed. They have more care in the service of beer. Beer is just taken more seriously,” said Atherton.

She also understands why this may be harder for pubs to adopt with the storage of the more delicate stemware being a challenge.

Atherton is optimistic about the craft beer revolution in the UK becoming more mainstream and beer getting taken more seriously.  BrewDog, Atherton believes, has done a lot to help kick start the craft beer craze in UK. “You can’t discount the influence they have had on craft beer,” said Atherton.

A big differentiator she sees is not just in the style and quality of the beers they make, but the pubs they are opening as well are really helping to elevate beer.

“When you go the pub, BrewDog’s customer service is amazing.  The training they do with staff is also top notch. And their beer is bloody good,” said Atherton.

Producers who have been showing at LWF were not sure what to expect from a wine fair, but so far Atherton has had some positive feedback. “So far, plenty of people have made some really good, strong sales leads with independent merchants and even a music venue,” said Atherton.

She did say the first day in the morning wasn’t too busy, but by the late afternoon the Brewhouse area was packed.  “I was surprised how busy it got at the end of the day,” said Atherton.

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