England is also one of the great brewing nations, the home of some of my favourite brews, not that the brainwashed masses of Australia know it, there is this pervasive myth that the Brits drink warm beer, as if the barman puts it in the microwave before serving. Sadly this means English Ales are often overlooked by many looking to try new beers, indeed I was well into German and Belgian beer long before those of the old country. Now, with today being St George’s day and the fact that my partner hasn’t sobered up enough yet to complete part 2 of “beers to get your girlfriend into beer”, I thought I’d concoct a list of some of my favourite brews from old Blighty that no self respecting lover of beer should miss...
There is nothing I like dislike about the above picture. The self appointed “Drink of England”, the Irish have Guinness, while the English have the Bombardier, or so the Well’s & Young marketing department would have you believe. I had a laugh the other day as I walked into the Acland St Cellars and saw a lone bottle of Bombardier, obviously misplaced on the shelf by some careless shopper, surrounded by the Wehrmacht’s finest; neatly ordered ranks of Weihenstephans, Paulaners and Shneider Weisses. With the Cross of St George emblazoned proudly on the label it reminded me of the title sequence in Dad’s Army. Stirring stuff. Anyhow I placed a few Sierra Nevada’s, and Stone & Woods alongside to help out. I also placed a Kronenbourg 1664 alongside but it immediately surrendered...Anyway this is a lovely and highly sessionable ale, a good introduction to what the English do best.
King Goblin: Wychwood’s Hobgoblin is a true classic and the beer which first got me into English Ales. While the Hobgoblin is a mischievous little scamp his bigger brother is a wyvern riding, battle axe wielding warlord, come to lay waste to your stupid hobbit village. A stunning coppery red topped by a rising off-white head it would not look out of place being served in some Middle Earth tavern, this is everything that makes the hobgoblin so enjoyable and then some. Also a great way of getting fantasy loving nerds into drinking good beer! It'll make you roll all 6s!!!
Samuel Smith Imperial Stout: A beer of impeccable pedigree, a list of English brews would not be complete without an entrant from the Old Tadcaster Brewery. This is an example of an imperial stout, like IPAs imperial stouts were brewed stronger to survive the rigours of long sea travel, in this case to the Russian courts of Catherine the Great. Despite what the attractive label suggests, this beer is not the same that the decadent members of the Russian Court would have drunk with caviar and peasants tears, but a resurrection of the style, first brewed in the 1986. As far as I’m concerned this is the supreme expression of Stout, everything that is good about this style of beer is present in the complex characteristics of this coal black beer. Have one of these with a fine cigar and some aged cheddar and sing praise.
Adnams Broadside: If you have ever wanted to try Christmas pudding in liquid form then the mighty broadside is for you. The label commemorates the battle of Sole Bay, which the English actually lost against the Dutch in 1672. At 6.3% this is a 72 gun, triple decker of a beer and pours with a tall white head every bit as majestic as the sails of the galleon depicted on the label. This is one of my favourite winter beers, the thought of a Broadside in my handsome Adnams glass keeps me warm as I walk the rain swept streets of a Melbourne winter’s evening. Adnams of Southwold are an excellent brewery with many worthy beers and were recently named 2011 Brewery of the Year by the UK’s good pub guide. In addition to their environmentally friendly brewing complex they also run 70 pubs which all serve cask conditioned ale and a percentage of annual sales go to the Adnams charity which supports the local area, they are essentially the Mother Teresa of UK brewing.
Fullers ESB: The ESB is a dapper sort of chap, the quintessential English gent. The only beer to win CAMRA’s best strong ale award on seven separate occasions and the progenitor of the extra special bitter style. 7 times!!! If you like beer and haven’t tried this yet then get cracking, no one is going to take you seriously until you do. Like the King Goblin, this is another incredibly aesthetically pleasing beer, a clear golden copper in the glass. The smooth, ginger, toffee, marmalade taste is utterly sublime, if I lived in the UK this would be my 6 pack of choice.