Friday, April 8, 2011

British Inferiority Complex?

My old friend in geekery Phil Lowry ponders whether the UK has "one of the best beer scenes in the world."

Is this really still in question?

Sigh. OK, Brits, listen up: Yes. You do have one of the best beer scenes in the world. Local strengths can be difficult to appreciate when you're used to them, so take it from one who's been lucky enough to enjoy some of the UK scene while also watching it from the outside: Yes. You have one of the best beer scenes in the world. Enjoy it.

And guess what? This is not a new development. The recent availability of (and inspiration from) international craft beers is interesting enough, I guess. But your greatest strength lies in those brewers who put ale into casks and those landlords who take good care of it. They've been around a long time, although I understand things were iffy there for a while.

These days, some veteran "real ale" types bristle at the burgeoning "craft beer" scene in the UK (because it's snobby/fizzy/alcoholic/undrinkable/American). But cask ale has long been an example of craft beer at its best.* In my view, which is sadly from pretty far away at the moment, cask ale is the heart and soul of the British craft beer scene. It's the principal reason why the UK does have one of the best beer scenes in the world. Only Belgium and the U.S. are in the same class.

I know. Sometimes it helps to hear stuff like this from outsiders. If it makes you feel any better, you are all correct about England's national team. It's highly overrated and has been for years.

*If you want to argue that "craft beer" is an American term, that's fine, but remember which country and which types of beers most inspired the movement which it identifies. Hint: It wasn't Belgium.


  1. Not to mention, Britain does true session beer far better than anywhere else I know of on the planet. And, yeah, I'm with you on the English national team.

  2. Germany's still pretty high class as well surely?

  3. I specifically left out Germany because it's pretty hard to find non-German beers there. To me that's part of the equation for quality of a beer scene. That's changing in Germany, but more slowly than in the UK (from what I can tell).

    Belgium actually has a similar problem (although it's changing there too) while an incredible diversity of native styles helps make up for it.

  4. From another outsider, this post rates very highly on the truthometer. I love the way so many UK brewers are taking the global, American-led, craft beer thing and fusing it with the best of what traditional British beer does. I love it especially when it's a pint of Oakham Citra, with my lunch, in The Three Fishes in Shrewsbury.