May 21, 2017

In fact, most of the beer—or lager—as they would call it, is served perfectly cold. In this case, however, we’re talking about ale. And while English ale is not served warm, it would better be described as cool.

Of course, none of this came as a surprise to me during our recent trip to London. True English ales, hand-pumped out of a cask, are at their best when they are just slightly cool, so that more of their flavor has a chance to show through. This is especially true of the low-alcohol (around 4% abv) session ales, which are very light indeed. Served ice cold, they would clearly suffer as a result, and no doubt display all the character of a Coors Light.

Another note is that these ales, when pulled from a cask, are not nearly as carbonated as you might expect, especially if you enjoy English ales out of a bottle here at home. While not completely flat, the character is more like a bottle of beer you attempted to re-cap and put back in the fridge to drink the next day; there’s something there, but not like when you first opened it.

I will get into a little more detail in some follow-up posts regarding some specific ales and experiences—the pubs were mostly all delightful and the ales very good. We had a wonderful visit to the Windsor & Eaton Brewery after a visit to the castle and the staff were so entertaining and gracious as we sampled a variety of their tasty offerings. We did a lot of walking, which left me quite thirsty—as a result, when we reached a pub for a break, I often had a cold lager to start and followed up with ales afterwards.

As I expected, the long reach of American Craft Beer is making itself known in the UK; besides the ubiquitous BrewDog offerings, a few of the newer craft brewers were beginning to fall under the spell of “more hops, please” – and are also using some US variety hops. I can only hope this phenomenon is held in check, as I’d hate to muddy the traditional character of true English ales as a result of this bitter trend.

All in all, however - a great trip and a memorable experience.


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