Last time I came to the UK, for my semester abroad, I was impressed and excited by the variety and quality of beer available on draught in pubs. It is true that England has a lot of local British beers. And it’s also true that they commonly have one beer on cask. Ah, but I was young then. Only 20 years of age, hadn’t even had my first legal drink back home- that is to say I had never enjoyed a full beer of tap in the states. Now I return to England, as seasoned a drinker as one can be after only a year of legal drinking. I tried a lot of different tap beers in the states (mostly Maryland and PA, but I’ve made a point to drink as much tap beer as possible on every vacation the past year). And I’m sad to say it…
The beer isn’t as good here.
For starters, I’m not sure the English know what an IPA is. It’s tragic. IPAs are one of my favorite types of beer. So delicious, and tingly, and they smell like hop heaven… I had an “IPA,” Greene King IPA, in a pub on Tottenham Court Rd the other night- at The Court, which is a pub I frequented on my last UK stay- and I swear the IBUs were negative 0.0. I know that’s not possible, but that’s how un-hoppy it was. No hop aroma, no bitterness. How they could even classify it as an IPA, I don’t know. Moreover, it as only 3.6% alcohol. Again: 0.0. Never have I had an IPA below 4.6% in the states, but 3.6???? Usually, they’re the ones raging a 6.8%. The bitterest in town back in Frederick, is 8.3%- Raging Bitch by Flying Dog. What is going on here. I haven’t yet seen a tap beer above 6%. Booo. The closest I came was an IPA I bought in a bottle- Jaipur by Thornbridge (pictured below)- at 5.9%. It tasted like the IPAs I know and love, so, although it wasn’t a favorite, I savored every bitter sip. I’m sure the beautifully hopped ales are out there…somewhere…but they are not something so easily stumbled upon as in every bar in Frederick, MD.
Overall, the beers I’ve had in the states have SO MUCH more interesting flavor than the beers here. Autumn beers, for example, are a wondrous seasonal event at home. Pumpkin ales- brewed with pumpkin, taste like pumpkin pie, smell like crispy fall- Oktoberfests, appley and mapley beers. England? You think they have delightful Autumn recipes for beer? Nope. They’re like, “What’s pumpkin beer? What are seasons?” To be fair, they have a few seasonal beers, which, again, I’ve only seen in bottles. And again, nothing like the widespread flavor in the states.
London also tends to have more imported beer on tap than I recall in Norwich. (Norwich is a town in Norfolk, a 2 hour train ride north east of London). I guess that’s the city part of it. One other praise I will give to the beer available here, is not even England’s: It’s Guinness. The Guinness is definitely better here than at home. Every time I have one, I feel like a kid getting that long awaited chocolate milkshake that Mom usually won’t buy for you but this time she said yes. Wow I really want one now.
I look forward to discovering England’s elusive draught IPA. I’m sure I’ll tell you all about it once I do.