Jersey’s beer scene
Login here to listen to the audio description
Before I started this post, I worked out how many places on the island you could buy a decent pint of beer.
For a relatively small land mass, just nine by five miles and with around 100,000 inhabitants, it was surprisingly difficult. Despite a huge reduction in visitors since it’s holiday heyday, locals and tourists alike support two breweries, and every type of place you could wish to drink in, from classic boozers and gastropubs to craft beer joints and a hidden 1920’s-style speakeasy.
Now it’s not all good news as we have our quirks. Jersey licensing law prohibits excessive discounting, so no happy hours I’m afraid, and prices are up there with the centre of London due to high rates of duty, labour shortages, property prices and freight costs.
This year, our government had pencilled in a duty increase of 8.9 per cent after holding the levy during lockdown. This is the equivalent of roughly 50p a pint on top of already high prices. After industry-wide outrage this was reduced to a still hefty 4.5 per cent. That doesn’t stop us having the second highest alcohol consumption rate in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), equivalent to around eight pints per person per week, but just like the UK, this is increasingly from consumers drinking at home.
The big beast on the island is Liberation brewery which, as well as being the island’s largest producer, owns a significant number of managed and tenanted properties both here and on the neighbouring islands of Guernsey and Alderney.
The company dates back to 1871 and the formation of the Ann Street brewery. Indeed, you can still see a few signs for Ann Street beers, and islanders reverently talk about the legendary Mary Ann Special, a sweet fruity pale ale which is still occasionally brewed as a guest beer.
Liberation produces cask ales such as the award-winning Liberation Ale and Liberation IPA. Its flagship Liberation Ale is a light amber brew with floral, citrusy notes and is a very easy-to-drink pint. One pint can very easily become two.
The beers are brewed at the company’s St Saviours brewery by a five-man team led by head brewer Pat Dean.
Following lockdown, the company supplies its pubs with a wider range of own-brewed brands including Longboard, a light, crisp lager; Loophole Session, an IPA brewed with American hops; and Waverider, a hoppy Pacific-style Pale Ale; plus several seasonal specials such as the delicious Christmas Ale, brewed with dried fruits, mixed spice and Jersey Black Butter.
Liberation has invested in overhauling its estate of pubs, and if you want to enjoy one of its beers, I recommend the White Horse sitting by the beach on a warm summer evening or the recently refurbished Post Horn, hidden down a back street with well-kept cask ales and delicious food.
The second largest pub company Randalls has an equally long pedigree, dating back to the early 1800s. The company, which sadly doesn’t brew beer on the island anymore, has a large number of pubs and eateries and is owned by descendants of the Hon. Edward Greenall, a member of the eponymous UK brewing family. Last year was its 200th anniversary, and the company produced a limited-edition beer with Hook Norton brewery. 200 Ale is a pale golden brew with apricot and hay aromas, a light body and gently bitter finish.
The second brewery is the Stinky Bay Brewing Co. named after a rugged bay on the north-western tip of the island. Conceived by two islanders working in British Colombia, they produced its first beer in 2018 and now produce contemporary-style brews including a craft lager, pale ale, and a personal favourite a deliciously hoppy Session IPA, plus seasonal beers such as Treat Yo’ Elf Christmas ale.
The company supplies pubs as well as producing cans, bottled-conditioned beers and mini-kegs for the off-trade.
We are lucky now to have a growing number of suppliers shipping over UK and American craft beers and have a number of great venues that would grace any town or city in the UK. Krafty J’s is a banging beer and gin bar in St Helier with resident DJ’s which serves an eclectic mix of beers. On my last visit I fell in love with the thirst-quenching, dry-hopped Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew hazy pale ale from Sureshot Brewing.
If your tastes are a little more traditional then you can look no further than the Prince of Wales and Lamplighter pubs, which serve a large range of well-kept cask ales including locally brewed beers.
The Lamplighter also serves delicious local pork pies but be warned it gets very busy on sporting occasions. The Prince of Wales is an altogether quieter venue with the best hidden beer garden in Jersey. For our size I think we do rather well and recommend you come over and see for yourself.
Chef Christian Gott lives and works on Jersey.