July 27, 2012 at 8:35 AM ET
It’s clear that British culture and tradition are front and center at the 2012 Olympic Games. From the iconic host city, to the British pop-culture mash up of the opening ceremonies, to the names of the mascots, it’s shaping up to be quite the Anglocentric extravaganza.
But if you’re watching it all happen live in London, there’s an important part of the culture missing from the mix – British beer. While the Olympic organizers have worked hard to infuse a sense of “Britishness” into every aspect of the events, Dutch brewer Heineken is the official beer sponsor of the Games, and they’ve banned other brands of beer from being served in and around the Olympic venues.
While spectators have to forgo some wonderful British brews, you don’t have to suffer the same sad fate. There are quite a few delightful examples of British beers available at bottle shops across America that will make your taste buds think they’re in Old Blighty as you take in the Games from the comfort of your own Chesterfield.
Meantime India Pale Ale, 7.5% ABV
Meantime IPA is recreation of the classic English India Pale Ale, a style of beer concocted to survive the harsh journey from England to India without spoiling. To achieve this, loads of hops were used as preservatives, and in the case of Meantime IPA, it’s Kent Fuggles and Goldings. The result is a singularly interesting IPA, which pours a hazy copper and has spicy cinnamon and mild hops on the nose. The flavor is slightly more reserved than it’s gonzo American IPA cousins (not shocking – it is a proper English creation after all), with the earthy malt body, the hops and a hint of clove all playing nicely together on your palate.
Thornbridge Jaipur India Pale Ale, 5.9% ABV
The lads at Thornbridge think a little like us Americans – take a traditional beer and give it a twist. This crafty India Pale Ale blends a citrus-forward hop profile with a sweet and fruity body (enhanced by the unique addition of wheat to the grain bill) to create a smooth, flavorful beer that is reminiscent of American IPAs, yet still retains its English character. While it’s delicious from the bottle, rumor has it that Jaipur is absolutely sublime when tasted from the cask.
Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, 5.0% ABV
Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout is brewed with water from a well in Yorkshire, England that was first sunk on 1758, and is fermented in old-school open stone vessels. This brew is bubbling with English heritage. It pours coal black with a fluffy brown head, and smells of caramel, toffee, chocolate, brown sugar and toasted oats. These delicious flavors are wrapped within a smooth and creamy body that’s light enough so you can have more than one pint of this satisfying stout while you cheer on Paul Drinkhall and Great Britain table tennis team (yes, they really exist).
Riggwelter Black Sheep, 5.7% ABV
This English Strong Ale is brewed in Northern England’s Yorkshire Dales. It pours a dark reddish brown and greets your nose with a dry, roasted aroma, promising of chocolate, espresso and earthy dark fruits. These notes continue through into the flavor, offering toasty tastes of coffee and chocolate, followed by a mild citrus bitterness on the back end and a dry finish. This medium bodied ale won’t weigh you down, and its flavor really blossoms as you get closer to room temperature, which is where many dark British beers shine. Black Sheep offers a lot of flavor in a very drinkable package.
Batemans Triple XB, 4.8% ABV
No roundup of British beers would be complete without an Extra Special Bitter (ESB), and this is one of the best examples of an English ESB available on this side of the pond. The nose is rather fruity, with pears, apples and figs in the lead, and a sip reveals a charming tapestry of earthy fruit, caramel, leafy hoppiness, and perhaps a touch of licorice. The finish packs a lovely little blast of peppery hops, cleansing your palate for the next pull from your pint. Light and flavorful, this is a beer you could sip all night long in the tavern, debating with your mates why pub darts should be added to the Olympics.
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, 5.2% ABV
This sweet and creamy milk stout from Bedford, England is brewed with chocolate malt and an extra dollop of dark chocolate added to boot. It pours an inky brown, and tempts your senses with the aroma of bittersweet chocolate. A sip offers a lovely gush of milk chocolate and roasted malts with just a hint of bitterness, and the beer’s mouthfeel is a creamy delight. At only 5.2% alcohol-by-volume, this beer offers a nice amount of delicious complexity without bogging you down with booze.
These are just a handful of the lovely British beers available here in the former colonies. Why not grab a couple with your chums, brush up on your Cockney accent (watching “Oliver!” can help) and let your senses rejoice in the sights, sounds and tastes of Great Britain.
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