Want to know more about English beers? You want to know the English beers to taste absolutely?
Then you’ve come to the right place! In this article we will get into the details of English and British beer (Wales, Scotland, England) by telling you its legendary history and describing the styles of English beers.
We will also go into more details with a list of English beers to taste for all those who wish to discover English beers and put into practice the learnings of this article.
Are you ready for a departure to the land of Ales and stouts? Let’s get started now on the history of English beer!
The history of English beer
The Neolithic origins
Like in the rest of Europe, ancestral traces of beer can be found in Great Britain. While in Europe the Romans seem to have found the first traces of beer, it is to the Celts that we owe the discovery of beer in Great Britain.
It was the archaeologist Merryn Dineley who found the traces of a barley beer more than 5000 years old and brewed by the Celts in Scotland.
You can find a detailed article on Merryn Dineley’s site about his discoveries. In addition, the Manchester Academy has published several books written by Merryn Dineley that we invite you to consult.
The book “Neolithic Ale: Barley as a source of sugars for fermentation” tells the story of the discovery and brewing of Neolithic pottery.
These early beers were of course brewed without hops and mainly with plants to give the beer a taste.
The Middle Ages and the appearance of hops
The Middle Ages saw the development of beer. Of course you have to be aware that the quality of the water at that time leaves something to be desired. Consequently beer is known for its hygienic qualities (the water is heated to brew what kills bacteria) and also for its caloric qualities.
Moreover the presence of vines is rare in the United Kingdom and brewing has the advantage that it can be done anywhere.
Hops appeared in 822 and was imported by a Carolingian bishop. However, hops took a long time to establish themselves on the beer market as they were often misused.
Thus one could generally distinguish two types of products: Ales (brewed without hops) and beers (brewed with hops).
The first hop plantations in England did not appear until the 15th century.
The appearance of the first commercial breweries
Indirectly, it was the Protestant reform that favoured the development of commercial breweries in England. Many brewers began to unite and brewery companies were founded.
In Scotland we see in particular the appearance of the Society of Brewers of Edinburgh created in 1598.
It is also at this time that the first pubs appear! These were breweries that preferred to buy beers for resale rather than take the costly risk of producing beer.
Most English beers are then high fermentation beers. We will have to wait for the development of research to see low-fermentation beers appear.
Breweries are also starting to brew a variety of beers such as Pale Ale, stouts, porters (in London). A little later in the 1820’s we see the famous IPA or India Pale Ale appearing which makes many happy today!
The 19th century and the development of the industry
James Watt and the Industrial Revolution will play a key role in the history of English beer.
The 19th century was a golden age for many breweries. Indeed the discovery of the steam engine by James Watt allows breweries to transport their beers more easily by train.
Some breweries of Edinburgh or even Ireland started to import their beers in London.
The XXth century and the appearance of lagers
From the 19th century some lager beers appeared in the United Kingdom. They were initially imported and did not immediately become the most popular beers.
From the 20th century on, lager-type beers began to make their way into the English beer market. After the Second World War this beer was particularly popular with consumers.
Some English breweries of course turn to this type of beer and other beers will be directly imported.
English Craft beer in the 21st century
Some English beers from the craft beer era
Of course, English beer is not exempt from the appearance of craft beer as the English will say.
At the end of the 20th century many breweries appeared which became among the best craft beer breweries and reinvented English beer.
We will present you many of these breweries in this article in the section English beer to taste.
The different beer styles of English beers
Let’s start with one of the most typical styles of English beer: the Ales. The term Ales comes unsurprisingly from the word Öl which meant beer.
As mentioned above, the term Ale was originally used only for beers brewed without hops. As the hops in beer has now become standardized, the term Ale is used for top-fermented beers.
There are different styles of beer traditionally brewed in Great Britain. Because Great Britain is traditionally a beer country you will find a wide variety of beer styles.
Here are the different styles of English beer ale:
Brown Ale: A generally brown coloured beer brewed in top fermentation with caramel coloured malt. We distinguish the Southern English Brown Ale rather focused on the malt from the Northern English Brown Ale rather focused on the hop flavors.
Mild Ale: A light beer in alcohol (3 to 6%) with a preference for malty flavours. Different variants exist with in particular the Dark Mild of brown color.
Pale Ale : A beer brewed of course with high fermentation and therefore to be distinguished from Lagers. Color is pale and aroma are brought by hops from England in general
Red Ale : An amber-coloured beer with caramelized flavours. Irish beers have their own version with the Irish Red Ale.
India Pale Ale : A pale ale with a strong hoppy flavour. We will detail more specifically this type of beer that has become so popular.
Old Ale : A style of English beer that strongly resembles Barley Wine style beers.
Cream Ale : A beer brewed with high fermentation but stored at low temperatures like lagers.
Light Ale : A variation of a pale Ale but rather light in alcohol.
There are many variations of the English style of beer but above you have a summary of the styles of Ale you will find in Great Britain.
We will now go into detail with a few more styles that deserve a little more attention.
IPA or India Pale Ale is one of the most popular styles of beer today. Its often exotic hoppy flavors seem to appeal to modern palates.
If India Pale Ale has reappeared on the scene thanks to its promotion by American brewers, it is important to know that this style has its origins in Great Britain.
It seems that the first India Pale Ale was born in Burton in 1820 by the Allsopp brewery. An Edinburgh brewery called Hodgeson would have quickly copied this beer to export it notably in India.
This is how the term India Pale Ale came into being, as the beer was originally intended for export, as hops helped, among other things, to preserve the beer.
Concerning the IPA an English brerologist Martyn Cornell has written various articles which we advise you to have a look at.
Different types of IPAs exist today such as Session IPAs (lighter IPAs in Alcohol), Imperial IPAs and of course the classic IPAs.
We discussed Stout beer in our article on dark beer. There are various styles of dark beers of English origin that we will present here.
Stout beers are also high fermentation beers, but in our opinion they deserve special attention.
The differences between Stout and porter are minimal. Historically the Porter style appeared in the 18th century and was drunk by the porters who carried the parcels on the docks. The term Stout was used for beers with a higher alcohol content.
The best English beers to taste
With more than 1800 breweries in the UK it is inevitably difficult to present all these breweries here. However here is a zoom on many of the breweries that we find interesting and that you can buy online from the UK!
A brewery created in 2005 and which will celebrate its 15th anniversary in 2020! The Thornbridge Brewery is one of the UK’s most popular breweries.
The Jaipur beer, which is also available in Perfectdraft kegs, is one of the spearheads of the Jaipur brewery.
It is an IPA type beer with fruity notes and a sweet hop aroma.
We advise you to try the Zero five a light beer in alcohol and the florida weisse a rasperry sour.
Camden Town Brewery
Another must-have London brewery that has made the rain and shine of English craft beer!
We advise you to taste their Camden Pale Ale a must or their Hells Lager.
A brewery not quite English since it comes from Wales. Nevertheless, the Tiny Rebel brewery is one of our favorite breweries in the UK.
Cali Pale or Clwb Tropicana are two excellent beers from Tiny Rebel brewery which brews mainly hoppy beers and Sour beers.
For those of you who have a Perfectdraft beer filler, you also have the opportunity to taste the Tiny Rebel brewery’s beers in Perfectdraft casks. We had classified these beers in our best perfectdraft kegs.
Magic Rock Brewing
Magic Rock Brewing is located in Huddersfield, UK. We really appreciate their beers which are hopped to perfection.
Saucery beer in particular is a beer that we advise you to taste.
An English brewery much older than the two previous ones since it exists since 1845. It was a family brewery until 2019 and is now owned by the brewing conglomerate Asahi.
The brewery is located in Chiswick in West London. One of their beers is there 1845 celebrating the birth of the brewery.
The Fuller’s Porter is another well known beer of the London brewery Fuller’s that we advise you to taste.
Charle’s Wells Brewery
Charle’s Wells Brewery brews a variety of beers including the Youg Double Chocolate Stout. It is an excellent beer that reveals intense chocolate flavours and a delicious roundness in the mouth.
The brewery also brews the Bombardier, which is an English bitter type of beer.
A brewery much less known but which is part of the very good English beers according to us. The Brick Brewery is located in London.
The brewery was founded by Ian a passionate homebrewer who settled under the vault of a railway.
Taste their beer Sour Strawberry and Cucumber.
An excellent brewery created in 2009 that sells all its beers in cans and also in bottles.
Finally the Cloud Water brewery that we no longer present! An English brewery whose creations we advise you to try.
This is it for our English beer guide! We’ve tried to provide as detailed a guide as possible that also gives you some shopping ideas if you’re buying English beer!
English breweries have flourished everywhere in recent years and craft beer activity is especially intense in London and the big cities!
To taste English beers you can of course turn to the English pubs that have been around for generations and are a real tradition!
You can also discover :