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Dec 21, 2006 10:36 AM

What are your 3 favorite beers from Britain?

This is a problematic question for me because there are so many local British beers that I'm probably not aware of. But here's goes nothing:

a) Caledonian 80/-
b) Fuller's London Pride
c) Young's Special London Ale

British beer to me is more of a mystery so I wanted to get an impression from hounds as to their take on it.


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  1. shepherd neame 1696 (? it was a special anniversary beer)
    shepherd neame master brew
    uley beer name escapes me, they normally name their beers after pigs so...

    But then, I am English, was brought up of Shepherd Neame (from Kent) then lived in Gloucestershire for a couple of years up the road from Uley where there is a small brewer. In order words I doubt you will be able to get any of these beers in the States, which is where I assume you are! Soryr - but if you ever visit I can send you in the direction of some pubs with fantastic beer!

    6 Replies
    1. re: ali patts

      I would love to hear more about some great pub towns outside of London.

      1. re: Chinon00

        outside where? I can only really say about bits of gloucestershire and bristol. Probably suggest a couple in the lake district and maybe around Inverness. I know a couple of nice pubs in Leicestershire but none I would really recommend because of the beer.

        1. re: ali patts

          Anything within a couple of hours of London.

          1. re: Chinon00

            I started a new thread! and now am realising how bad my memory is!

            1. re: Chinon00

              You can take a train west from Paddington and be in the Berkshire/Oxfordshire countryside in no time. There are some lovely pubs along the river. Check out the Brakspear website ( . There's even a find-a-pub feature, where you can tick which features you're looking for, such as "On the River."

            2. re: ali patts

              The Campaign for Real Ale is a great resource for finding great beer and terrific pubs. We went to several recommended places while on honeymoon in London, and they were all great.

              By the way:

              Fuller's London Pride is delightful.
              JW Lees
              Thomas Hardy's

        2. I'll name four:

          J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale
          Traquair House Ale
          Harviestoun Old Engine Oil
          Thomas Hardy's Ale

          4 Replies
          1. re: brentk

            Second on the JW Lees.
            Adnams Broadside Ale
            Belhaven St. Andrews Ale

            Last night I had the JW Lees aged in Lagavulin casks. Amazingly good.

            1. re: Josh

              Josh where did you find this? I am intrigued as Lagavulin is my scotch of choice

              1. re: MVNYC

                It's actually on O'Brien's bottle list. It's $13 for an 11 oz. bottle.

                Holiday Wine Cellars has it for $7, though. I'm actually heading up there tomorrow to pick up a few bottles. I'm making duck confit for Christmas dinner, and think that the JW Lees will be a great match.

                It may just be my new favorite beer.

            2. You've got to specify what sort of British beer you're after... based upon your list you're looking for bottle conditioned Extra Special Pale Ales that are exported by fairly major brewers...

              I'll give you my three favories in each catagory:

              Standard English Bitters:
              Charles Wells Bombardier -- this is actually an ESB when exported, but it's my favorite bitter at the moment... only buy it in bottles, the cans are a different brew entirely.
              Bluebird Bitter -- good workmanlike bitter, low ABV.
              Horndean Special Bitter -- tough to find out here on the west coast, but very tasty.

              English Pale Ales:
              Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Pale Ale -- clear bottles, try to get one that's been sitting in a dark corner, or has just come out of a sealed case.
              Young's St. George's Ale -- originally rewed for ASDA, this is now being exported and is very tasty stuff... similar to Bombardier (now produced at the same brewing facility).
              And you've already got Fullers, which would be my #3.

              Brown Ales (Nut Brown Ales):
              Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale -- again with the clear bottles, see the advice above.
              Riggwelter Yorkshire Ale -- drier than most nut brown ales.
              Hobgoblin -- the newer bottles of this will be brown... yay for the application of modern brewing science.

              India Pale Ales (for those who crave hops):
              Meantime India Pale Ale -- very expensive, but nice and bitter, almost like an American IPA
              Fuller's India Pale Ale -- nice middle of the road IPA
              Samuel Smith's India Ale -- CLEAR (&*^% BOTTLES! But, still good when you can get a fresh batch.

              Porters (thanks to Brooklyn Brewing for bringing them back):
              Manchester Star Ale -- My personal favorite of the porters, but very hard to find out here on the west coast.
              Samuel Smith's, The Famous Taddy Porter -- the best and most venerable of the porters... clear bottles... grrrrrr...
              Fuller's London Porter -- a distinctly bitter porter.

              Stouts (I prefer oatmeal stouts, personally):
              Hopback Entire Stout -- I like this, but it's tough to find out here.
              Dragonhead Stout -- technically an Orkney beer.
              Meantime Chocolate Stout -- again, very expensive and tough to find.

              Strong Ales:
              Fuller's 1845 -- much like the rest of the Fuller line, tasty and easy to find.
              Adnams Broadside -- probably more of an ESB... widely available on the east coast, hasn't made it out west yet... one of my favorites.
              Monkey Wrench Strong Ale -- a nice middle of the road strong ale.

              The best of the oddballs:
              Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout -- I love this stuff with an unmitigated passion... outrageously sweet and smoothe.
              Charles Wells Banana Bread Ale -- tough to find, but surprisingly tasty... the hops and the banana kinda marry in a bizarre way.
              J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale -- a traditional barley wine available in a variety of different cask aged bottlings... all good.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Moomin

                "Porters (thanks to Brooklyn Brewing for bringing them back):"

                How did the Brooklyn Brewery "bring back" porters? They don't even have a regular Porter in their bottled beer line-up, do they?

                Porters actually survived in the US (Stegmaier, Yuengling, Narragansett, Krueger, Anchor) longer than they did in the UK, where they did disappear during the mid-20th Century.

                1. re: JessKidden

                  It's called Manchester Star (after the JW Lee's recipe by the same name) and it's only brewed very occassionally, but it inspired a whole renaissance of classic porter brewing in the UK. Whereas there were quite a few strong baltic porters, and some very bitter American porters made through less traditional methods, at that point, it was Brooklyn's Manchester Star that brough back the resurgence in old British porter brewing that has really taken hold today.

                  Or so the story is told.

                  1. re: Moomin

                    Although I'm sure they helped, I disagree that Brooklyn's Manchester Star "brought back" porter -or even imperial porter for that matter.

                    Heavyweight's Perkuno's hammer was made a full year (2001 vs. 2002)before Brooklyn's Manchester Star and imo was the beer that turned brewers and beer geeks on to the baltic porter style -and probably even Garret Oliver.

                    And single strength porter has been somewhat popular in the states since the beginning of the microbrew revolution. Anchor, Sierra Nevada, Geary's have probably exposed more people to porter than any other breweries in the states.

                    1. re: LStaff

                      I remember seeing Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter on shelves here back in the '90s, when I was first buying beer. FYI, Garrett Oliver was a brewer for Samuel Smith's early in his career.


                      1. re: Josh

                        "FYI, Garrett Oliver was a brewer for Samuel Smith's early in his career."

                        I don't think so. The article only states that Oliver served an "... apprenticeship under Samuel Smith’s former head brewer.."

                        Garrett originally worked at the late great Manhattan Brewing Co., where he worked under brewmaster Mark Witty, who *had* previously worked at Samuel Smith and Whitbread in the UK.

                        1. re: JessKidden

                          Yes, you're right. I misremembered what he said.

                      2. re: LStaff

                        "Heavyweight's Perkuno's hammer was made a full year (2001 vs. 2002)before Brooklyn's Manchester Star and imo was the beer that turned brewers and beer geeks on to the baltic porter style..."

                        Okocim Porter and Zywiec Porter may have had some influence as well <g>. I don't know how extensive their distribution was, but they were common beers (and cheap) in NJ (esp. in old industrial areas with large Polish populations). It was strange that they both stopped importing their porters just as the sub-style was being recognized in the US.

                  2. re: Moomin

                    Oh, yeah, by the way, most (if not all) of Samuel Smith's brews are now available in the US in brown bottles.
                    I've already bought and drank a few single bottles of Winter Warmer, which, in previous years, I would always only buy by the case, splitting it with a friend.

                    1. re: JessKidden

                      Spectacular! We're not seeing the brown bottles out here in Los Angeles yet... but I'm sure we will given time. And I'll be thrilled to see them!

                  3. Hmmm, hard to narrow them down, but here are three favorites (all to be had in cask conditioned form):

                    Cain's Mild
                    Timothy Taylor's Landlord
                    Deuchar's IPA


                    1. Another general question. I was at a pub that served Bombardier Bitter and Eagle IPA (which I think are brewed by the same company). The Bitter had a higher %abv than the IPA (which was around 3.6 %abv). In the States IPAs are generally higher in alcohol than other ales (e.g. Pale, ESB). Are there any rules in England about this?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Chinon00

                        Both of the beers you mention would have been from the Charles Wells brewery in Bedford. One doesn't see UK IPAs as much as might be expected and there is no standard as far as ABV goes - except you will pay more for the higher alcohol content (partly higher taxation, BTW). The Deuchar's (brewed by Caledonian in Edinburgh)I mentioned above is only 3.8% ABV. Americans who are used to our high gravity craft/micro brews are often surprised at the low alcohol content of the most common UK beers. But then again, we seldom drink 10 imperial pints before deciding where to go for dinner!