10 best beers from Bristol and Bath
Looking for a vibrant, eclectic brewing scene? It’s time to go west
Any beer enthusiast looking for a weekend city break could do worse than head out west to Bristol. The laidback city has a vibrant mix of traditional and modern watering holes, most of them serving an eclectic range of local beers from the city’s ever-expanding roster of breweries.
While some of those breweries (such as the new trio of Good Chemistry, New Bristol and Incredible Brewing) are less well known outside the city, others including Moor, Wiper and True and Lost and Grounded have achieved a national appeal for their innovative ales.
For this list we’re focusing on those ales that are mostly available across the country, and have included a pair of beers from Bristol’s posh little neighbour, Bath, where the 20 year old Abbey Ales has recently been joined by the exciting Electric Bear.
To further prove the appeal of Bristol as a beer destination, it’s also home to one of the best craft beer festivals in the land and, from 8 to 15 September, will celebrate the city's brewing excellence with Bristol Beer Week.
So whether you’re out to explore Bristol’s beer scene in the heart of the action, or appreciate it in your own home, here are 10 beers to give you a flavour of what the city and surrounding area can offer.
Arbor Shangri-La, 4.2%: £3.69 for 568ml, Beer Hawk
Arbor Ales has been serving Bristolians excellent beers for 10 years, while also steadily gaining recognition much farther afield.
Shangri-La is typical of its output – an easy drinking ale that’s full of flavour, served in a pint-sized bottle.
It’s a sessionable IPA with the grapefruit-led Citra hops most prominent among the tropical fruit mash-up and it has a long, lingering, grassy hop bitterness. Fill your finest pint pot and savour every drop.
Moor Claudia, 4.5%: £2.39 for 330ml, Beer Hawk
Moor is one of the most respected breweries in the country and we could have featured any number of beer styles from its range in our top ten.
It’s a wheat beer we’ve plumped for, and it’s one of the best you’ll find brewed in Britain.
It has all the crisp, clean and refreshing qualities you would hope from the style but with an extra boost to the hop count, providing some Americanesque tropical fruit flavours and a lovely floral bitterness.
Bristol Beer Factory Southville Hop, 6.5%: £2.49 for 500ml, Waitrose
Bristol Beer Factory’s excellent Milk Stout made our 10 best porters and stouts list so we’ve opted for a lighter coloured beer this time.
Southville Hop is an American-style IPA stuffed full of Cascade, Simcoe and Centennial hops that give it a taste of the tropics and a long, dry finish.
The biscuity malt base is equally flavoursome with touches of toastiness and caramel sweetness, making it a fully satisfying drinking experience.
Electric Bear, Inspector Remorse, 4.7%: £2.75 for 330ml, beercraftbath.com
Electric Bear has shaken up Bath’s booze scene with some outstanding modern beers.
Look out for their occasional brew, Cherry Blackout, a boozy, fruity stout which tastes as if it has been made with the finest chocolate cherry liqueurs.
Or try the simpler dark pleasures of Inspector Remorse, their take on a London porter. There’s a lovely depth to the roasted grains with hints of sweet, creamy chocolate, helping it to slip down easily with a moderately bitter, dry finish.
Wiper and True, Kaleidoscope, 4%: £2.99 for 330ml, Beer Hawk
Wiper and True epitomises the craft brewing movement, with a constantly evolving line-up of high quality beers born of an experimental streak and a desire to share and learn from like-minded collaborators.
This pale ale is itself a constantly evolving brew, containing a different combination of hops every time it’s made.
The hop medley in our sample came packed with tropical fruit juices and a satisfying streak of bitter citrus and pine, adding multiple flavours to their highly gluggable light, grainy malt base.
Lost & Grounded Saison D’Avon, 6.5%: £2.99 for 330ml, Honest Brew
Lost & Grounded launched in 2016 with much industry anticipation, and those eagerly awaited beers have been an instant hit.
The brewery is heavily influenced by German and Belgian brewing and this saison displays touches of both countries’ beers.
Pilsner malt and wheat gives it a light, summery body that delivers some banana notes similar to a hefeweisen, while a mildly funky yeast is distinctively Belgian.
It has a peppery spice and grassy bitterness and there’s a hint of lemon to help bring out its refreshing summery appeal.
Bath Ales Gem, 4.8%: £1.70 for 500ml, Ocado
Bath Ales, situated midway between Bristol and Bath, produces a number of traditional beers, including this one, along with some craftier brews under its “Beerd” brand.
Gem is a meaty bitter with maximum flavour extracted from the Maris Otter malt and a good showing of autumnal fruits from the hops.
There’s some sweetness up front and a slightly dry, herbal bitterness to finish. It’s one of the more comforting pints of ale you’re likely to find.
Left Handed Giant, Deeper Water Salted Caramel Stout, 5.1%: £4.79 for 440ml, Honest Brew
Named after a mythical giant who is said to have carved out the Avon Gorge with his bare hands, this three-year-old brewery is already making its mark on the local beer scene and beyond.
Their ever-changing line up of original beers and collaborations can be hard to keep up with. But their hit rate is high, especially with unusually flavoured dark beers such as this salted caramel stout.
Expect a rich, creamy body with multiple layers of flavour – including some lighter salty vanilla notes and some deeper shades of caramel, liquorice and spice.
If it keeps up with current standards then the young giant looks set for big things.
Butcombe Original, 4.5%: £1.80 for 500ml, Sainsbury’s
Butcombe’s brewery is a short drive south of Bristol and its beers are a common sight within the region’s more traditional boozers.
It has been brewing its English bitter since 1978 and both the cask and stronger bottled version are surprisingly hoppy for a beer of its generation.
It’s a clean, guzzling brew with the typical dry fruit flavours of English hops, which pair well with the slight, toasted caramel notes of the full malty base.
Satisfyingly dry throughout, it’s a proper pub pint, even if you’re enjoying it from the comforts of your own sofa.
Abbey Ales Twelfth Night, 5%: £45 per 18-pint box, Abbey Ales
It can be hard to navigate the crowds in Bath when the Christmas market comes to town, so abandon the shopping and slope off to one of the pubs that serve this delicious brew instead.
It’s a hearty chestnut beer that’s full of fruit pudding flavours and is intensely malty, with some toasty chocolate notes creeping through.
We may still be in summer mode, but when a dose of winter warmth is required this fine ale won’t let you down. (In fact, it’s available in this 18-pint box, so it should see you through the majority of the frostier months.)
The Verdict: Best beers from Bristol and Bath
There’s plenty here to enjoy for the real ale traditionalist as well as the modern craft beer fan, but for an all-rounder that brilliantly shows off Bristol’s brewing capabilities we’ve picked Arbor’s Shangri-La as our Best Buy.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.