Contributed by Uncommon Nasa.
What an amazing run of shows in the United Kingdom with Last Sons! Was there a culture shock being my first time overseas? Not really, except for within the beer culture. I'd always heard the term "English Pub" and always heard about English beer not being cold, but didn't understand the relationship. It's only in an English Pub environment that a beer can truly be enjoyed at room temps. Eventually I also figured out that the beers were being poured so slowly because almost all beer (even commercial beer) is served from casks. The respect that the English scene has for the beer itself could be shared in the US, but isn't most times. Yes, you can walk into random bars in the UK and get San Miguel or Birra Moretti (why???), but when you step into an English Pub (and there are many), you are most often met with a clean and neat bar with large cask signs explaining the beer, even small samples in front to show color/body and each is paired with it's true glassware companion. Going in, I must say, I was not a huge fan of English Bitters. I grew to love them in the UK, but fear they are simply not reproduced reliably on the State side. So I enjoyed as many as I possibly could for the sake of this article of course.
1. The Beer Studio: Topaz Cluster
This one was special as it drank in as an English Bitter and finished as an American IPA. Made from US Cluster Hops, you can tell why. This brewery has great graphic work on their taps, I wish I could have tried more. If they ever got Topaz Cluster to the States they'd make a LOT of money because there is nothing like this over here. It's the perfect balance between UK and US styles.
2. Howard Town Super Fortress
It would figure that my top 2 beers from the UK would be called things like Topaz Cluster and Super Fortress - basically the most Bond movie sounding names ever. But Super Fortress was right there at the top, a more traditional English Bitter, but with a great sweet after taste that can lead to far more then just one.
3. Everards Tiger
I had this the same day I had Topaz Cluster and it did not get blown away by any means. Probably the first English Bitter I had over there that really impressed me to the point where I wasn't just saying "when in Rome" as I drank. A great introduction to quality UK Craft Brewing.
4. Hardy & Hanson's Olde Trip
This was a beer unique to the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Pub in Nottingham. The Pub claims to have been opened in 1089 (that's up for dispute), but what isn't up for dispute is that the Pub is olde. Built in a cave like structure that's adjacent to an actual castle, it features this original brew (to which I got the last one of the night from the cask!). I really enjoyed it, along with the hand/eye coordination thwarting hook and horn game they have where you have to angle a ring on a metal string hung from the ceiling onto a crookedly position animal horn on the wall. Hours of entertainment!
5. BrewDog Punk IPA
This is a great kick around beer. It was readily available and probably what I drank most in the UK. It would have placed much higher on the list if not for the fact that this is truly an American IPA style beer made in the UK. I'll look for it on our side of the pond, as I'm sure it won't be long til it's here. By far the best, and only choice in the UK that I found, for American style IPA's made locally.