Minutes away from the bustling hub of intercity travel that is Piccadilly Station is where you’ll find Cloudwater Brew Co. Outside the fusion of ultra-modern and Victorian architecture that draws travellers into Manchester’s storied streets lies a city built upon a foundation of industry and immortalised in the paintings of Lowry, the lyrics of Morrissey, and the trophy cabinets of both its red and blue halves. This is Manchester, and its brewing scene is more adored than ever before thanks to the efforts of several passionate microbreweries.
Despite only existing for a couple of years Cloudwater’s reputation has rapidly skyrocketed, deservedly placing the brewery – and their goal to produce accomplished modern seasonal beer that is best enjoyed fresh – at the forefront of the British craft beer movement. Striking contemporary labelling and extraordinary, flavour-packed creations have earned much critical acclaim and the devotion of beer lovers. Cloudwater’s adaption of traditional methods alongside the implementation of distinctly modern techniques mirrors the constant shuddering motion of Piccadilly Station; echoes of the past are greeted by new and exciting arrivals.
One style of beer quickly designated Cloudwater as one of the UK’s most unique sources of contemporary craft beer: the double india pale ale, or for short, DIPA. The brewery’s first two incarnations of their now most recognisable style, v1 & v2, attracted the attention of beer lovers nationwide. Juicy, cloudy and worryingly drinkable despite their high alcohol content, the DIPAs were a new benchmark for British brewing that stood toe to toe with the mythical creations of brewing giants across the pond.
DIPA v3 was a clear statement of intent on the part of Cloudwater to be recognised alongside the world’s most highly-regarded breweries. A bold gesture toward brewing greatness that quickly became a reality. The switch to Vermont yeast and Golden Promise malt, alongside the punchy combination of Citra, Chinook, US Comet, and Mosaic hops, led to unparalleled juiciness and tropical flavours that many drinkers this side of the Atlantic would assume couldn’t possibly reside in a bottle of beer. At the time of this piece’s publication, v3 proudly resides within the top 20 ‘Imperial IPAs’ on the planet upon RateBeer’s ranking table. Entries resting above it largely originate from celebrated American brewing institutions such as The Alchemist’s ‘Heady Topper’ and Russian River Brewing Company’s ‘Pliny the Elder’. Despite that accolade, and also being considered the second best beer to ever be brewed in England, Cloudwater forged ahead with their plans to brew the ultimate DIPA.
Following on from the success of DIPA v3, the brewery decided to take an even more adventurous and experimental approach to their next major release. v4 & v5 would focus on the effect of yeast and fermentation upon hops, and the influence of timing when undertaking the ‘dry hopping’ process. The phenomenon that truly interested the brewery goes by the name of ‘biotransformation’ (a process in which the yeast breaks hop flavour compounds down during its lifecycle). Essentially, this activity would either absorb the flavour or result in new and unique ones being produced. Two identical beers would be brewed, however, v4 would add hops during fermentation, while v5 would add them post-fermentation. Simultaneously releasing both versions would then allow hopheads to try them side by side and even combine and blend them! A worthy experiment that would result in interesting drinking for those lucky enough to get their hands on the ridiculously limited supply of bottles, and a wealth of data for Cloudwater to use to continue to adapt and evolve their DIPA.
Ultimately, freshness is a core value of Cloudwater, their beer has a period of ‘critical drinking’, and as they clearly state themselves, is best enjoyed fresh. The influx of craft beer into the daily drinking habits of many has alerted us to the fact that the full enjoyment of specific styles of beer is dependent on their freshness. Hops diminish over time, IPAs and their supercharged imperial counterparts are full of hops, the science behind drinking such beers in their optimum state isn’t difficult to grasp. It’s one thing to brew unique beers that push the envelope, it’s another to ensure that beer lovers get to enjoy them in a state that’s conducive to experiencing the most flavour possible.
Cloudwater are leading the charge when it comes to placing freshness and seasonality at the top of the agenda – an approach which US breweries consistently focus upon. As implemented when brewing the various versions of their DIPA, the dry hopping process ultimately creates a wealth of aroma, a sensory element that is directly linked to taste, but it also adds ‘alpha acids’ to the equation. If the beer isn’t stored correctly and chilled, then it’s flavours will degrade. The intention on the part of the Manchester brewery to encourage individuals to engage with the processes which go into making a great seasonal beer is clear. Time-sensitive ingredients, hops being a prime example, steer each batch of seasonal Cloudwater brews in the same way a Michelin-starred chef would cherry pick only finest and freshest ingredients for a new dish. Yet the breweries approach is also thoroughly collaborative, allowing beer drinkers to all be part of this incredibly exciting journey toward brewing immortality…and it all begins in Manchester.
Future batches of DIPA will be much larger than v4 & v5, ensuring more brews for beer lovers to enjoy. A variety of Cloudwater Brew Co. beers will be making their way into our subscribers’ Honesty Boxes over the next few weeks so you too can experience unique seasonal beer at its best.