Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Not for all the beer in England

If you follow me on Instagram or Untappd you may have noticed that the Little Lady and I just got back from London and Edinburgh in the UK. There was a lot of sightseeing and touristy stuff, but even with a busy vacation schedule we managed to squeeze in a beer or two.

First off, cask beer was everywhere! I mean everywhere! I'm pretty sure that gas stations had cask lines. Every single pub or eatery we went to had at least a few beers on cask right next to their normal taps. Secondly, they do not mess around when it comes to cider. There are tons of variety and they are excellent. The ciders are mostly poured over ice to make sure you drink them super cold. According to one of my bartenders, standard beer in the UK is served between 50 and 60 degrees depending on the style of beer. A lot of this comes from history and what they were forced to do. They also believe a proper pour should only have between 1/4 inch of head and 1/2inchof head. For the most part in the US we are looking for at least an inch.

The pubs were all beautiful with awesome looking old wood bars.On the other hand most of the beer in the pubs was just OK. Almost everything in your average pub was done with a very traditional mindset. Now, I'm not bashing traditional beers. Traditions are traditions because people liked them, but with the American craft beer movement we have gotten really used to some outside of the box flavors and different elements in the beer being turned up to eleven. There was almost none of this in the first few places we visited. Luckily I went out to Instagram and a buddy recommended the White Horse.

The White Horse reminded me of Twenty Tap in Broadripple only with a big time UK flavor. They had over a dozen beers on cask alone, and all of them were made by local microbreweries in the area. Alongside the casks they had plenty of force carbonated options and bottles. They had a great selection of Founders and Ale Smith which I thought was awesome. The bar had all of the old world charm that we found throughout the UK in the pubs and ale houses, but with some really inventive and creative beers.

Favorite beers in London were:
KeTo Reporter by Birra del Borgo Porter brewed with tobacco, crazy cool brew
Rekorderlig Ciders by Abro Bryggeri
All of the Aspall Ciders
Pilsner Urquell Tankovna (Unfiltered) by Plzensky Prazdoj

When we went to Scotland either the beer improved or I'd gotten better at finding it. We found a couple bottle shops (liquor stores) that had an awesome selection, but the crème de la crème was hitting the Brew Dog Brew Pub (look for a post to follow about Brew Dog). The pubs were pretty much the same old thing that we had seen in London. Some solid cask ales, but most of them were basic Bitters and really mild IPAs. The hops were very UK and the malts were very strong. We were told at one bar that beers from Scottland have less hops than other beers in the UK because the plant doesn't grow in their climate and the Scottish people have never liked giving England their money. Based on what we drank this held pretty true, as long as you don't count in Brew Dog.

Favorite beers in Scotland were:
Fyne and Wild Cool as a Cucumber by Fyne Ales
Paradox Isle of Arran by Brew Dog
Abstrakt AB:14 by Brew Dog
Good Times by Williams Brothers Brewing Co.

All in I was not really that impressed with the craft beer scene in London. Don't get me wrong, there are good beers there to be found. Here in Indy if you go to a restaurant and pay more than 20 bucks for an entrée you are probably going to get at least a few different local beers. In London, not so much. We went to different a lot of nice places and a lot of dives and when you were looking through the beer selection you found a lot of the same stuff. If not the exact same brewery and beer name, the same styles. The UK's love of tradition makes so much of their stuff taste pretty similar. Now when we did find a good craft beer bar, the beer was amazing. I would put it up against most breweries here in the states without question, and it was on cask which was a fun plus for me. I think we're starting to get some really good mainstream traction with our scene here in Indy, and it seemed like London and Edinburgh are just a little bit behind in the mainstream areas. That being said, the casks were awesome and the cider was amazing. Makes me want to start looking for more craft cider around home.


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