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British Beer Is Different

Britain and the Republic of Ireland are the only countries where all the principle home-grown beers are brewed by top-fermentation. Being brewed in this way, they best express their flavours when served at above 54ºF*, and are rarely frozen into tastelessness as frequently happens with American beers. This causes consternation among foreign visitors, but the excessive chilling of a good British or Irish beer is likely to provoke even greater outrage among regular customers.

What the rest of the world gains in the thirst-quenching "edge" of cold beers, the British especially gain in the richly varied palates of their brews. British beer is an acquired taste, but so are oysters, steak tartare, or marron glace. Before British beer can be enjoyed, experience is required, but he same could be said for sex. For the visitor to Britain, the difficulty is compounded by the wide range of beer types. They may predominantly be top-fermented in colours ranging from copper to black, but Britain's beers manifest themselves in at least ten styles. Even the British drinker is often unsure about the precise meanings of these different designations.

All types of draught beer - "Keg," bitter, mild, stout and lager - are commonly drunk by the pint. Half-pints are regarded serious beer-drinkers as being rather effete, and suitable only for women. The half-pint is the smallest vessel used for draught beers. There has been no suggestions of a move towards smaller measures, like some of thoses used in the U.S.A. and the British does not have to concern himself with maintaining a fresh chill on his beer. A pint of beer must, by law, be poured brimful - into to a glass which bears the stamp of the Weights and Measures Department. If there is to be a "head" this should stand above the top of the glass (or the Pimsoll Line," if the glass is marked in this way).

Attitudes towards froth vary from region to region. In many parts of Britain, drinkers prefer their beer to look slightly "flat." In other parts, the worth of the froth is judged by its ability to stick to the side of the glass, marking a ring to commemorate each magnificent swallow.

The protocol and etiquette of British beer-drinking is infinitely complex. Not only are the size and density of head a matter of great importance, so is the style of drinking vessel. Glasses with handles are thought in some places, and especially by the Northern English be notably lacking in the appropriate machismo. Personalized pewter mugs can be irredeemably suburban unless they hang in a truly rural pub. All that is cherished beyond doubt is the pint (which in Britain is 20 fluid ounces).

In Britain, when people go for a drink, they go "for a pint" the drink and the places are identified by the quantity.The words "go for a pint" extend, and are universally understood, to mean a visit to a pub, where several large glasses of beer will be consumed. The pint was derived from an ancient measure used for corn, and centuries of peaceful English life have proven it the perfect quantity of beer. A pint is just the right amount to tickle the palate for an expectant moment, rush headlong at the thirst, and demand a courteous amount of time for drinking before the next round falls due.

Like the pint, the round system makes for drinking in quantity. If two Englishmen meet together in a pub, each has to buy the other a drink. The same applies to Scots and Welsh, whatever the English may say about their alleged meanness. Two men means two drinks. These drinks have to be paid for as they are served, unlike American style, so such debts of courtesy cannot be buried in the sheaves of bills which are boozily totted-up at the end of the evening. A drinker who misses his round is noticed, and avoided, in the future. Three men means three drinks. Four men means four drinks. The haste to buy a round is fuelled by honour, machismo, and Britain's beat-the-clock licensing laws - a restriction which grew out of the First World War, and which refuses to die.

Such expansive drinking customers may help explain why so many British beers are of unassuming gravities, though the depressing activities of the taxman and the avarice of the brewers must also be held accountable.

*These brews travel over 3,000 miles, and we maintain our keg room at a cooler temperature to ensure freshness. We suggest you let it warm in the glass.

We value your patronage highly and hope you enjoy Ye Olde England Inne and Mr. Pickwick's.

Please Do Not Drink and Drive!

We are delighted to provide your designated driver sodas, tea or coffee at no cost.

 


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