London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

Beer - Part Two

24/01/2005, By David McIntosh

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 13163 votes


Stout first came about as a "stouter" version of porter. Itís a more full-bodied drink with a darker color and comes in styles such as Irish or dry stout; sweet or London style stout, which is sweetened with sugar and Imperial stout, a stronger version which had almost vanished but made a resurgence in the 80's. London style stout was once known as milk stout because of the use of milk sugar or lactose and not because milk was added.

Among the ales youíll find pale ale, which was pale only in comparison to stout or porter. Pale ale has a more bitter and hoppy flavor than porter or stout and British pale ale is a little bit heavier than the American counterpart. India Pale came about because of the need for a variety of ale that could stand the rigors of a voyage to the far corners of the British Empire and as result IPAís contain a lot of hops and alcohol which act as a preservative. Other types of ale include Irish and Irish Red Ale which is slightly sweeter and derives its red color from roasted barley. Old or stock ale and also goes by the name strong ale is a bit lower in alcohol content and can be aged over a period of years.

Now that you that know a bit more about the different styles of beer available in the UK, letís meet some of the brands of brew you might make the acquaintance of when you visit one of Londonís publicans.

Fullerís - Made in Londonís oldest brewery by Fuller, Smith and Turner. The folks at CAMRA have recognized Fullerís a number of times for staying true to the faith. Brands include 1845, Chiswick Bitter and Fullerís London Pride.

Bass - The parent corporation recently sold its brewing interests to Belgian based Interbrew in order to concentrate on its profitable hotel and lodgings business (the parent corporation owns the Holiday Inn chain - did you know that?). Still when many think of British brews they think of Bass. Draught Bass is the best selling cask ale in England and beer drinkers around the world are familiar with Bass Ale as well as the red triangle trademark on the bottles.

Scottish and Newcastle - One of the major players in the British brewing scene; famous for such brands as Newcastle Brown Ale as well as various brews under the McEwanís and Youngerís labels as well as the Courage label.

Guinnessís World famous Irish brew that is also popular in the United Kingdom as well as around the globe. The Irish like their stout and when people think of Irish stout they, more times than not, think of Guinness as well as Harp lager which is also brewed by Guinness. Part of the massive Diageo drinks empire.

Samuel Smith - A family owned Yorkshire brewery which has done a great deal in helping bring back more the traditional styles of beer and ale. Smithís almost single-handedly was responsible for the re-emergence of Imperial Stout.

There are a number of other famous British brands including Whitbread, Worthington, Boddington as well as regional brewers such as Greene King, Charles Wells and Ind Coope (brewers of Double Diamond) and Scotland and Wales produce a number of notable and distinctive varieties of beer.

In the past the majority of Britainís pubs were tied to a particular brewery which, in turn, meant that a particular pub sold only the brands of that brewer. Liberalization of licensing laws has resulted in breaking the tie between many pubs and brewers though debate still rages over whether or not this has been a good thing; some patrons claiming that it has resulted in pubs and bars that lack the traditional atmosphere of the pub of old, while others say it has resulted in greater freedom of choice for patrons.

Something to look for when waiting for your drink; does the publican pump the tap handle three or four times or does the beer come out with only one pull? If he pumps it then youíre drinking cask ale which been allowed to undergo a second stage of fermentation in the cask. Be prepared for a truly pleasurable experience.

As weíve already mentioned, the best way to become familiar with the variety of beers and ales available to patrons in the UK is to simply get out there and start sampling the wares of a newly resurgent British brewing industry. Cheers.

P.S. Visitors to Porters in Covent Garden will find the bar well-stocked with the necessary libations and the staff well-schooled so that one may begin their study of various beers and ales that are familiar to Londoners.

David McIntosh

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Re: Beer - Part Two

By Andrea 15/03/2005, (Rating: 2.9 from 12521 votes)

What about English Cider? If you ask me, Strongbow is the best drink ever. Much better than the light beers in america. It's especially good if you get it in a snakebite.

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