Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trollied Tuesday: the further Belgification of Britain

I should follow the logical implications of my comparison of Britain to Belgium and turn my thoughts to beer. Though I am not a narrow nationalist and cannot, in all conscience, claim that British beer is quite as good as Belgian beer this is still an eminently worthwhile topic.

However, just like our Low Countries cousins, you can tell a lot about the British from a close study of the beer. There is the distressing uniformity of much of the mass produced crap that people will insist on buying and the effects of globalisation (be it the sale of your Carlsbergs or US Budweisers or the easy availability of Czech and Belgian beers), of course; but there is also a glorious variety across the regions of the UK.

As ever, Northern Ireland is a special case – Guinness is king, but they do produce a lot of Bass (to the Burton recipe) there. But across Great Britain itself you will notice that Scottish beers are not like English beers – no 80/- south of the border, for instance; and it's easy to spot the difference between a distinctively Scottish brew - say Traquair or Harviestoun - and a southern English beer like Harveys of Lewis, or Adnams or St Peter's. (Why is Suffolk so good at beer making, incidentally?). And, of course, the north of England's own classics (say Landlord or Black Sheep) and Welsh beers (Brains is the only one that springs to mind. Surely there's some good stuff out there?) are markedly different in their own right.

Anyway, I'm not going to list every beer I like. The point is that for all this variety, these British beers are recognisably from the same stock. A good example is India Pale Ale - a legacy of our shared imperial history (the beer was extra hoppy to help it survive the journey to India) and the development of industrial techniques which made it possible to produce such a beer. My favourite is a Scots version – by Deuchars – but you'll find fine versions for Marstons, Meantime and others. It might be down to shared brewing techniques and ingredients as much as history and culture, but in beer terms Britain is still one nation. E pluribus unum, if you like, or one nation under the table.



Blogger Quink said...

Adnams and St Peters are probably my favourite breweries - I've been to the latter, and it's excellent.

I suspect the reason they're so good is the fact they're in the part of England that historically had close bonds with the Low Countries. I bet they picked up some Flemish expertise at some point.

7:12 pm  

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