We’ve been in England for over a week now and I’ve noticed a few things that I quite appreciate about drinking beer here:
- Real Ale – Or cask ale as we would call it, is available at almost all pubs. Commonly you’ll find six or eight of the major brands on tap and then there will be three beer machines pumping out real ale. Often you’ll find Fuller’s London Pride, Young’s Bitter, or Wells Bombardier available, among other British ales.
- Ordering at the bar – Whether it be beer or food, you order at the bar here. There is no pretense of table service and I much prefer this means of ordering. You go to the bar, order, pay, and have your beer shortly after. I much prefer this to table service where you are at the mercy of your server when it comes to ordering and settling up.
- Public Drinking – You can drink in public here. You can buy beer at a store and crack one on a train or in a park. You can order a beer at the pub and then walk out and enjoy it on the street if the weather is nice or the place is too crowded. I was shocked the first time a saw open alcohol in public, but only because it isn’t allowed back home, which isn’t to say it doesn’t happen anyway. People definitely drink in public at home, but either hide it or fear confiscation. Why bother with a silly law? People who want to drink in public will do it anyway. In the words of my aunt when told about our law, “but how do you have a picnic in the summer then?”
- Good Beer Guide – CAMRA UK publishes a Good Beer Guide to England detailing the many great pubs over here. I recently purchased this book only to find that there is also an iPhone app. The app uses the phone’s GPS to pinpoint your location and walk you to the closest approved pub. Considering that I don’t know a whole lot about my current whereabouts, this app is a revelation. My iPhone is now a good beer finder, wooo!
Jet lagged in Guildford two years ago
My wife and I moved to London, England last week. We’ve been staying with my gracious great aunt in Guildford, Surrey, an accessible train ride from the city. We’ll hopefully be able to continue doing so until we find our own flat (British for apartment), which will hopefully be soon. It is true that everyone here talks funny and drives on the wrong side of the road, but I suppose we should be thankful the British sent all of their smart, good looking people to Canada (and their dumb and ugly to the US) 400 or so years ago to improve upon their language and culture. Even though Canada is eleven times better than the UK, we decided to come experience the old country and the rest of Europe before we became bored enough to try having babies. In all seriousness now, it was time for a change in our commute heavy and not entirely fulfilling lives, so here we are. I mean no offense to people who have babies (we’ll be them soon enough) and very little offense to the UK (come on, it isn’t perfect here).
What does this mean for LoveGoodBeer.com? Not a whole heck of a lot really. We’ll continue blogging, Erik from Vancouver and myself from here. And while I’ll miss the burgeoning BC beer scene, there will be plenty of new beer experiences for me to have and write about. I’ve already been to two British pubs (the Lamb and Flag and the Grantley Arms) and sipped real ale, but I also plan to visit Belgium, Oktoberfest, and more of the UK, including the GBBF, in the coming months. Erik plans to visit twice too, meaning our entire staff of writers will be reunited, however briefly, across the pond. Back to things that I’ll miss, I don’t know how I’m going to live without Brewery Creek and the Alibi Room, not to mention my friends and family, for however long we’re over here. Hopefully the experiences will make up for any sense of loss, but I’ll just have to hope everything isn’t too different when I get back. I will miss Vancouver and those close to me there dearly.
Cask beer is pumped
I was telling a few friends about some of Vancouver’s periodic cask ale events and was shocked to realize that they didn’t even know what cask ale is! I suppose it is one of those terms that I just take for granted. In any case, I thought I should post a blurb for the uninitiated.
Cask ale is unfiltered, unpasteurized beer that is served right from the cask it is conditioned in. Cask ale must be served via a pump (or gravity) because there is no artificial pressure, which is usually generated by added CO2 or nitrogen. Cask ale is often dry hopped, meaning that hops are thrown into the cask before the secondary fermentation phase, which is generally referred to as conditioning (live yeast remains because it is not filtered out). Cask ale is usually served a little warmer than most beer, at about ten degrees Celsius. Cask ale is the real ale that the Campaign For Real Ale is promoting. The cask ale Wikipedia page has a lot of great information if you are interested in learning more.
I really enjoy real cask conditioned ales, which are generally more hoppy (bitter) and less carbonated than their un cask conditioned counterparts. I also find cask conditioned ales to be smoother and more flavorful. If you are interested in tasting some cask conditioned ale, I recommend signing up for the CAMRA Vancouver mailing list. Their weekly email will tell you where to find cask ale, which is available every day at the Irish Heather, every Thursday at Dix, and every last Friday of the month at Big Ridge.
Also, if you were wondering, bottle conditioned ale is similar to cask ale, save that it is aged in the bottle and not in a cask. Give it a try if you see it in your local liquor store!