How to make the most of a trip to Britain, one drink at a time.
UK abuzz about craft beer
Beer has long been popular in the UK. But the burgeoning small-batch craft beer scene is now exploding thanks to hundreds of new boutique breweries, boozers and bespoke festivals dedicated to celebrating the amber fluid. According to Beverage Daily, the number of new breweries opening in the UK leapt up by 55 per cent from 2016 to 2017 and it now pushes past the 2000 mark. And beer tourism has become a serious business.
Start your craft beer crawl of the UK at The Old Brewery in London where you can enjoy stout-marinated oysters alongside a Brixton Atlantic American Pale Ale. Time your visit to the UK to coincide with the London Craft Beer Festival in August. Craft beer nerds should also pencil in a day dedicated to DIY Craft Brewing at London Fields Brewery in Hackney or at Drygate in Glasgow, where you can take a tour of the box factory turned brewery and then mash on with the brew-meisters.
Tutored tastings are also available at Beermoth bottle shop in the vibrant northern city of Manchester, which stocks one of the largest ranges of craft beers in the country, and at The Liverpool Craft Beer Expo, a magnet for beer geeks who gather to enjoy a line-up of 200 beers from 60 different British craft breweries.
The pretty maritime town of Falmouth in Cornwall, in southwest England is also on the map thanks to Beerwolf Books, which is all about books and beer. Oh and best don't ask for a ‘warm’ beer, even as a joke: drinking beer like a Brit means drinking it at room temperature so as to better appreciate its flavours.
Wine the unexpected winner
Vineyards have been established in Britain for about 2000 years. And, as an increasing number of UK wineries are being recognised with awards and accolades, there's no better time to enjoy a cellar door crawl of the vineyards producing the top drops.
Travellers who inquire with locals in Kent, which is known as the 'Garden of England' will definitely find themselves in possession of a bottle of Chapel Down Rosé Brut, which was served to guests at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding. For a taste of history, visit Hambledon Vineyard, in Hampshire, the oldest winery in the UK. Nearby sipping sites also include Danebury Vineyards and Cottonworth, which is thrilling wine lovers everywhere with its sparkling rosé.
There are now more than 400 vineyards dotted around England and Wales. And while most of the vineyards are based in the south and east of England, its worth detouring north to Ryedale Vineyards, which is just half an hour's drive from the ancient city of York and the most northerly vineyard in England. Here you can stay the night in a farmhouse that dates back to 1630 and wake up with views of rolling hills embroidered with vines.
Wine buffs should also factor in a visit to Camel Valley Vineyard, located down a winding road in Cornwall, where visitors can sample a glass of the 2014 Pinot Noir Rose Brut, which won gold in the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships 2017. Adventurous epicureans can also try fishing for trout or salmon on a curve of the Camel River, which runs through the property. Toast to your good fortune during English Wine Week – held each year in May – after a grape-to-glass tour of Purbeck Vineyard, located in the sunny Wessex Valley on the South Coast of England.
Have you heard about the new wave of alcohol-free bars sprouting around the UK? While the righteous may well be slurping mocktails at the Redemption Bar in West London, whisky connoisseurs will be heading in the opposite direction to enjoy a wee dram straight from the 'teapot' at the Glengoyne Distillery outside Glasgow. The Teapot Tipple Tour offers visitors the chance to bottle whisky straight from two special single casks and to enjoy a tasting in honour of the workers at the distillery who helped themselves to large drams from the canteen teapot each day.
Sales of whisky are skyrocketing around the world; understand why with a tasting at The Glenturret Distillery in Crieff, central Scotland, one of the country's oldest distilleries (established in 1775). The Famous Grouse Experience at the distillery includes a sniff around in 'nosing pods' designed to help visitors understand the blending process before customising their own bottle of whisky at The Personalisation Bar. The Gleneagles Hotel, located in Perthshire, central Scotland also offers guests the chance to blend whisky using a selection of single malts in an experience dubbed The Perfect Pour. Those who want to an excuse to explore the Scottish Highlands should zigzag along the world's only whisky trail to link seven distilleries. The Penderyn Distillery in South Wales and Bushmills in Northern Ireland should also be on destination lists of distilleries.
Jumping gin joints
The best-stocked bars around Britain now include an impressive line-up of locally made gins. And while gin distilleries are popping up everywhere from Plymouth to Herefordshire, the science behind blending the spirit is also inspiring educational experiences that allow enthusiasts to create their own bespoke bottle.
The City of London Distillery, Portobello Ginstitute and Sipsmith offer tastings and tutorials in the heart of London, which reflects a resurgence of interest in the spirit that is again one of the nation's favourite drinks. Wannabee aficionados can also learn more about the trendy tipple in a bespoke Gin Journey through London with Shake Rattle and Stir before bedding down in the South Place Hotel, which has a bottle of Sipsmith gin in every room.
Gin is also experiencing a renaissance in Glasgow, which has a dedicated gin bar, Gin 71, boasting an extensive range of gins paired with house-made tonics.
A visit to the Bombay Sapphire distillery will surprise and delight everyone from architecture students to lovers of the spirit blended with juniper. Housed in a former banknote facility designed by architect Thomas Heatherwick, this is a decidedly grown-up experience that puts gin lovers behind the scenes during the creation of the spirit.
Tick some of the UK's most Instagrammable tourist attractions off your list on a gin-bar crawl that snakes its way from The Feathers in the Cotswolds – which lays claim to the most well-stocked gin bar in Britain – to The Potted Pig in Cardiff, where the 30 gins on offer are contained in a bank vault. Pleased to Meet You in Newcastle will also knock your socks off with its Naval Gin. Chin-chin.