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British Beer: True Brew, Fun Novelty, or Warm Urine?

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Several weeks ago, I spent a week in the U.K. (Scotland and England specifically). Over the course of the week, I tried at least a dozen different beers, sticking predominantly to British drafts. From Deuchers to Greene King to Old Peculiar to Triumph, I tasted what I have been reading for the past year – British beers are served with lower carbonation and at a higher temperature. From a taste standpoint, these beers without fail were much lower in bitterness than their American counterparts and tended to have a more pronounced malt profile with more wood flavors.

But here’s the thing. My good buddy Peter adores British beers (though not quite as much as Belgians). I think he sleeps with a pint on his bedside. I have talked to others who are confident that British beers are created simply by drunken Londoners urinating in a barrel of grain. I walked away glad for the opportunity to sample a new family of brews, but ultimately I just love American craft beers. So for those of you who have sampled British draft beers – true brew, fun novelty or warm urine?

7 thoughts on “British Beer: True Brew, Fun Novelty, or Warm Urine?

  1. OK, ok – so it would be unsporting of me not to respond so here goes:

    “From Deuchers to Greene King to Old Peculiar to Triumph”

    That’s like me coming back from the US and saying “From Blue Moon to Long Hammer IPA to Coors to Pabst”

    You’ve chosen cited average beers and two absolutely terrible ones. No wonder you weren’t impressed.

    Next time you come to Britain, drop me a line and leave the Lonely Planet in the hotel room. I’ll show you the way – although you might end up in a disused factory being tortured to death (that’s what we Europeans do to young American travellers).

    PS. If you look on my latest post you might recognise the glass I used with the Flying Dog Old Scratch… ’tis one of yours, you trio of toe-rags!

    Cheers

  2. Good words, Stonch. Looking back, I should have touched base with you for a list of beers to try.

    And I have to admit, the torture was pretty rough. Just glad I escaped with 8 of my 10 fingers left.

  3. Please tell me you had some real ales while there. I think there is very little on this great earth finer than a hand-drawn cask ale. My vote is for true brew, but I think “Cold filtered” is how macrobrewers remove all the flavor from beer.

    I’ve not been to the UK since 2000, but when i was there last, I was somewhat appalled to see the number of people drinking either Coors and other lagers, but also folks drinking red bull & vodka. I guess you don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone.

    Deuchars IPA was one of my favorites from the trip, but I was incredibly biased having just toured the brewery, then having sampled it from the cask.

  4. Wow, one word – Ethnocentric.

    I am American, live in the US, and primarily drink American craft beers (high IBUs). However, I strongly believe that many of the real ales produced in the U.K. are in a league of their own. In fact, I’ve threatened my wife on may of occasions to move to London just so that I can have real ale on a daily basis.

    I’ve heard a plethora of people (Americans) comment on how they just don’t understand the attraction to Real Ale – I just shake my head in disbelief. These beers are subtle, complex, and the best part, you can drink 3,4, and even 5 pints and still know your name. I just feel that our American beer culture has become one of extremes – hoppy, big beers. Don’t get me wrong, these beer are great. But unfortunately many “yanks” fail to see that there is much more than just in-your-face hops.

    — Stepping off the soap box.

    Enjoy your blog, thanks.

  5. Andy, Coors is virtually unknown in the UK, so I’m surprised you say that when you visited in 2000. In the early to mid 90s they to popularise it here via a big advertising campaign (see my comment on the previous post here), but it clearly failed. The only American macrobrew that is reasonably common in the UK is Bud.

  6. Clearly, I’ve hit a nerve. I am not necessarily saying that British beers are not on par with American beers, just that my pallet prefers a colder, hoppier, more carbonated beer in general. This is probably due in large part to the fact that I have had the most exposure to American craft beers, but the fact remains that I have still struggled to get over the hump to become a true connoisseur of cask-style ales.

    So my invitation still remains – what beers do I need to try to deepen my appreciation?

  7. Real Troy (Troy B) Stepping in to state that all beers are different though I find most American beer to be over carbornated and British beer served too warm for me as well. I fancy the Belgiums or Germans who serve at a cool temp but not ice cold. A perfect Cool temp allows one to taste all the flavors without the smell of the achohol over powering as it does when beer is served warm.

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