“Something that refuses to be bottled, standardized, or easily replicated.”  -Oxford Companion to Beer

Beer is a vital part of English culture, it has been brewed there for hundreds of years. There are many styles of beer in England, including bitter, mild, brown ale, old ale, Stout, Porter and India Pale Ale, Lager is popular sincen the middle of the 20th century.

According to some theories, the first beers were made by the ancient Romans when they arrived on the island in 54 BC. Beer was one the most popular drink in the Middle Ages: all social classes consumed it, especially in England, were grape growing was not possible. Beer was drunk with every meal. Basically men were involved in the industry, so they gathered in guilds (as Brewers Guild in London). There were aleconners also, who were charged to ensure that the beers were sold at a good price.

The use of hop rised in the 15th century, because the establishment of the right proportion was difficult before (British brewing is considered to have been part of the Celtic tradition in these times). So before the 15th century other flavorings as meadowsweet, honey and mugwort were supposed to be used. Beer is in fact much more than a drink.

This drink is so full of nutrients that monks used to sing odes about it. In the times when water was not reliably clean, beer was the only safe point, since it was sterile due to the brewing. Not to mention that beer is very sociable which helps a lot to loose social barriers.

That is one of the reasons why pubs play such an important role in our social history and the continuation of our community. There were some kings, who gained an advantage of the people’s burning passion towards beer. For example Henry II inaugurated a tax on the beers in 1188, despite the displeasure of the folks.

During the centuries beer became somehow a symbol of social cohesion, something that makes people happy and healthy, that can awake feelings of pride and patriotism. In fact beer contributed a lot to the development of the English nation’s self image. During the second world war Churchill encouraged the soldiers to drink eight pints of beer a week. Nowadays it is not so popular, less people are drinking beer as before, and a new wave of neo-prohibitionists would like to ban beer consommation.

6. Greene King

best UK beers listThe largest brewery in the UK was founded by Benjamin Greene in 1799 when he was 19 year old. It is based in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England and listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Basically Greene King produces 6 types of beers: Abbot Ale (a premium bitter), Green King IPA (a cask bitter), IPA export (a stronger cask bitter), Olde Suffolk/Strong Suffolk Vintage (a strong old ale), St. Edmunds(a crisp golden ale), Greene King XX Mild (a dark mild ale).

Interesting to note that Greene King bought up a few names that were breweries before but no are closed (including Morland, Ruddles, Hardys & Hanson and Tolly Cobbold). Not to mention, that the group operates 3,100 pubs, restaurants and hotels like Hungry Horse, Loch Fyne and Metropolitan Pub Company).

The brewery uses malted barley, water, yeast and hops for the brewing. Malt gives the color of the beer, while yeast -as a catalyst- is responsible for the fermentation which turns sugar into alcohol. Some people are quite critic about the company: there used to be protests against the group where the term „Greedy King” is often used.

5. Harvey’s

best UK beers listIs there anything better than a beer and a meal?” Harvey says. Harvey’s Brewery was founded in Lewes, East Sussex, England by John Harvey (1784-1862). The company is privately owned. They make both cask-conditioned and bottled ales.

The traditional cask ales are unpasteurised and are considered as the champagne of beers. The finest raw materials -such as malt, hops, yeast and spring water- are selected carefully. Harvey’s owns 48 public houses in London and the South East. Their beer get their character from yeast and the water which comes from a borehole and is filtered through chalk and thus has minerality.

Harvey’s take their heritage and history really seriously and they are conscious about their environment. Their philosophy go against the industrial style which they regard as impersonal and something which lacks individuality. “Beer is about not taking yourself too seriously,” Harvey says.

4. Islay Ales

best beer from the UKIsaly Ales is the only brewery on Isle of Islay in Scotland, which is primarily famous about it’s smoky whiskys. It was founded by Paul Capper. The brewery swear on hand crafted, high quality cask and bottle conditioned beers.

These exciting beverages may be enjoyed at the following pubs and restaurants: Port Charlotte Hotel, Lochindaal Hotel, Harbour Inn, Ardview Inn, Sea Salt Bistro, Port Askaig Hotel, Yan’s Kitchen, Ardbeg Distillery, Kilchoman Distillery, Bridgend Hotel and The Taste.

Islay Ales produce a wide range of beers which are not filtered nor pasteurised: Finlaggan Ale, Black Rock Ale (Gold Medal Winning), Saligo Ale, Ardnave Ale, Dun Hogs Head, Nerabus Ale, Angus Og Ale, Single Malt Ale (also Gold Medal Winning), Kilchoman Dark and Kilchoman Pale.

They use different types of malt, like pale, crystal, caramalt, chocolate, lager, wheat and roasted barley to get different flavours, colours, strengths, aromas and styles, and different types of hops: Bramling Cross, Fuggle and Golding are from England, Amarillo and Mount Hood are from the USA and Bobek is from Slovenia. The beer get more aroma and bitterness from the various hops.

3. Sheperd Neame

best beers from the UKThis independent, regional brewery was established in 1698 in Faversham, Kent. It is the oldest brewery in Great Britain. It produces 281000 barrels of cask ales and filtered beers every year, so they have a wide range of selection.

Their philosophy is about the 100 % respect of the traditional approach and the usage of entirely natural ingredients. Chal-filtered mineral water is used during the brewing, which ensures a clean and natural flalvor to the beer, The larger part of the hops used were grown locally, in Kent.

They use the UK’s last remaining unlined solid oak mash tuns to produce more than 20 types of beers, including Spitfire Premium Kentish Ale, which is the result of a very successful story. Initially it was created to pay homage for the Battle of Britain.

It has a hoppy flavour which represents trusthworthily the Kentish style. Spitfire Ale is now Shepherd Neame’s biggest-selling cask conditioned ale, which has won a gold medal and Best Strong Cask Conditioned Beer of the World at the Brewing Industry International Awards. Other beers produced by the brewery are India Pale Ale, Bishop’s finger, Early Bird Spring Hop and Dragon Fire, just to mention a few.

2. Otley Brewing

UK's best beers list2005 is the year when this brewery was opened in Wales with a Toyota truck, a few borrowed sacks of malt. The idea popped into the heads of the Otley boys when they were drinking a pint at the „Bunch of Grapes” bar.

They had been selling beer for a long time, and they wanted to try the brewing process also. They had Otley pubs, so Otley beer was the next obvious move. The boys wanted to produce award winning, unique beers with fancy hop aromas, a nice bitterness, which show remarkable differences when compared to traditional and other common beers.

The motto of Otley brewing may be „beer evolution” which means careful passion, a forward looking attitude to achieve a progressive result for independent, free-minded intellectual and intuitive people. Seemingly there is a good way to cross the attributes of the New World and the Old World. The boys maintain a good relationship with talented artists and innovators, so they are really open- minded and progressive.

1. Wye Valley Brewery

best UK beers listThis is a friendly, family run brewery which was founded in 1985 by ex-Guiness brewer Peter Amor in Canon Pyon, Herefordshire. They swear to a traditional way of creating beers, this means they produce cask-conditioned beers.

The brewery is considered to be the leading cask ale brewery in the UK. The ingredients are water, malted barley, hops and yeast, as usual. The special thing is that they use only locally produced hops, which gives authenticity to the beers. The fermentation takes 3 days which is followed by a secondary fermentation, or cask conditioning in other words.

The core ales are Butty Bach (a premium ale), HPA (a pale ale) and Wye Valley Bitter (a cask-conditioned bitter). The Dorothy Goodbody Ales are the purest of their ales: Golden Ale is a crisp, aromatic beer, Wholesome Stout is a dark- full-bodied stout, while Country Ale is a strong, full-bodied ruby ale.

Beer is an ideal cure for the soul and the body, if it is consumed with moderation. Even the ancient Egyptians prescribed it against indigestion, coughing and as a painkiller. Hop is used by some researchers for the production of medications, during a research they found three types of hops called „Cascade” which have a high content of cohumulone.

This molecule gives a unique, pungent and bitter flavor to the beer and disposes of a flame retardant effect. So there are many unknown and hidden good attributes of beer waiting for discovery, don’t be afraid to drink it, it is a clean and sanative beverage, but really pay attention to the measurement.

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