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The best of British beer

Can I have your thoughts?
For reasons I’ll be able to reveal in a week or so, I need to choose one beer (bottled) to act as an ambassador for all that is great about the British brewing.
If we’re honest, that’s an impossible task, but nevertheless I need to do it – and make my decision in the next 24 hours. There’s so much diversity, so much quality. There are enduring classics, and exciting new tyros on the scene. But which one, above all others, symbolises why British beer is the best in the world? (This is not the place to argue whether or not British beer is the best on the world – for the purposes of this thing we have to assume that it is – for reasons I’ll explain later).
I already have a couple of ideas of my own, so I’m not just being lazy, but thought it would make an interesting debate!

41 Comments

41 Comments

BLTP

think you know my vote… London Pride because it has a sense of place and tradition it's perfect for it's locale it's flavoursome characterful and you won't find it's like anywhere else.

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Moggy

My votes would go to Thornbridge Halcyon or bracia, Timmy taylors landord, Gadds number 3 or Hambleton stallion, i find it hard to choose between them, they are all tasty brews in their own right and all completely different beasts.

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Nicholas King

My two cents worth would be for Thornbridge Alliance PX.

However as this was a one off I am not sure if it counts. so how about Sam Smiths Stingo; tradition and innovation in one fell swoop.

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Mof Gimmers

I'd like to give thanks (and subsequently put forward) to the many wonderful hours spent supping Cumbrian Way.

It ticks all the boxes of having a good body, with a bit of fruit and spice thrown in to the mix. To me, it's indicative of everything that's great about British brewing. Simple, easy to knock back yet has enough complexity to keep those who like holding pints up to the light talking for a good few minutes.

Mof

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Darren

Hi Pete,
So difficult to call this one…. For a traditional beer I think Fullers Vintage Ale deserves a mention. For a session beer (which IMO is what British Beer is largely about) I'd nominate Timothy Taylor Landlord or for a more 'contemporary' alternative I'd pick Dark Star Hophead.
Good luck trying to pick just one!

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Alan

I might go another way, with the "in the world" stressed. It can't really be a beer that is not readily available out there… by which I mean out here. London Pride is a good call – and I think as David Line's 1970s desert island beer a venerable call. But I would think Newcastle Brown and Theakston's Old Peculier also have a claim. Both are singular, widely available and have proven staying power.

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Darren

Hi Pete, For a traditional beer I think Fullers Vintage Ale deserves a mention. For a session beer I'd nominate Timothy Taylor Landlord or a more 'contemporary' alternative I'd pick Dark Star Hophead.
Good luck trying to narrow it down to just one!

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Chris

well, you can either go for something which is more classic style and readily available – Fuller's London Pride fits the bill well, as would Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale – or you can go with the beer that I consider better than all other beer in Britain and the world: Thomas Hardy's Ale. Thomas Hardy's Ale may not be a typical British beer, but it's the best example of what beer everywhere should aspire to be.

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Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com

Wow, that is a tough one!

Contenders in my eyes are White Shield, Old Hooky, Landlord, London Pride – all drinkable, all with a story, all very, very British.

White Shield a phoenix from the flames, Old Hooky still brewed by steam, Landlord drinkable and as ubiquitous as ale gets.

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Fatman

Hophead is out – I think Pete needs an English hopped beer. Similarly Halcyon, Braccia and Alliance (and they're all cracking beers).

Old Peculiar is a good one, London Pride too, if you like butterscotch, but I'd look for a beer that displays nuanced English hops in their finest light and plumb for Gadds Number 3.

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Mister Pivo

I think you gotta go for Fuller's London Pride. It's a great beer and nothing says Britain like a good pint of London Pride!

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Curmudgeon

I always think Landlord – more so than many other comparable beers – is very disappointing in bottled form. How about Sam Smith's Old Brewery Pale Ale or Bateman's XXXB?

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Ed

I'm not quite sure what the event is but stronger beers generally do better when compared to others so I'd go for ESB above London Pride.

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Sid Boggle

Bottled beer, so many of these previous suggestions (including the magnificant Dark Star Hophead) must be excluded…

I propose Titanic Stout – a beer that exemplifies the sweeter English interpretation of the style (which we, after all, invented), which ages wonderfully in the bottle while being excellent fresh, and is a complex and rewarding sup, available in even the less credible of beer shops (and I'm meaning supermarkets here…)

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Mark

Tricky, so many choices… I'd say White Shield, Fuller's London Porter or their Vintage or maybe Newcastle Brown Ale. If you want something to show off the new stuff then maybe Thornbridge Jaipur or Halcyon.

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Chris

My vote has to go to Traquair Jacobite Ale. In my opinion it is the world’s greatest beer, bottled or otherwise.

How could you not like the history surrounding Bonnie Prince Charlie leaving the house where this beauty is brewed and the gates closing behind him, never to be opened until a Stuart sits on the throne? Originally brewed as a one off to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Princes departure, it was so good they have been brewing it every month since.

At 8% it may put some people off but it doesn't carry that cloying quality often associated with beer of this strength. Rather, it is a smooth, easy drinking dark beer with spicy undertones and a lovely bitter liquorice finish.

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James Cridland

White Shield. Proper, bottle-conditioned beer; a splendid pint, particularly in a pewter tankard.

Fizzy non bottle-conditioned stuff if you must; but this is splendid. Sad that my Tesco has stopped selling White Shield. Any ideas why?

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BLTP

without getting to political how can you have anything british linked to bonnie prince charlie he never lived here! and he was french

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Pete

Loving the response – thanks everyone!

James, Tesco dropped White Shield but then Sainsburys took it on nationwide in their bigger stores. The brewery is currently working flat out just to meet the Sainsburys demand, and can't currently supply anyone else. BUt I hear rumours of expansion so watch this space!

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Matthew

There are so many decent ales out there. How about Dark Star's Hophead or a nice pint of Everard's Sunshine. What about Moorhouse's Pride of Pendle or Premier Bitter – or even some English Owd Ale (actually, that's only for export). Then there's Doom bar by Sharp's down in Cornwall or a nice pint of Butcombe. If you're thinking of a London Bitter, then how about a pint of Young's?

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Chris

Beer and politics is never a good mix, but in response to BLTP…BPC may well have been French but given that our current royal family is an eclectic mix of Germans, Danes, Greeks etc etc, why not? Perhaps Jacobite Ale truly reflects Britain’s diverse cultural heritage better than most other bears.

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Tyson

I think some people are simply picking their favourite bottled beer, which isn't quite what was asked for.

It is a difficult decision but one of the classics is called for, I would have thought. So on that basis, I will cast yet another vote for White Shield.

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Dave25

White Shield for first choice, Pride or Sam Smiths Pale Ale if you don't want bottle conditioned. I think all three would fit the bill as a perfect representation of good British Beer in the "current traditional" style (if that's not a contradiction in terms). I don't think darker beers, for all their loveliness and fine history, could currently act as a standard-bearer for British Beer.

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Alan

Applying my "in the world" criteria, White Shield is a whisper. Never seen it. Even ran an ad for White Shield on my blog for a bout a year and kept asking for a sample. None was ever sent. May be the best UK bottled beer in the UK but not in the world.

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David Easley

Young's Special London Ale. To be honest, one reason why this is a favourite bottled beer is because it's often such good value in supermarkets compared to other 'premium' ales.

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Laurent Mousson

Bath Ales Gem. I know, not BC, but an excellent bottling job all the same, crisp and clean… the beer itself IMHO is an excellent take on typical english "nutty malt + hop smack" lines.

Otherwise, I'd suggest Harvey's Old Ale, i.e. their bottled mild, which is amazingly intense and complex for a sheer 3,6%…
Now that could be a very good point british beer to put forward : UK brewers deserve respect because they do know how to brew tasty, satisfying beers at lower densities than most.
BTW Harvey's Lewes CAstle is quite impressive in depth and complexity for its moderate strength too, and is a sore reminder of how pale a shhadow of itsels Newcastle brown has become.

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Pat Mustard

Humm. I'd have to say either Abbeydale Absolution or Kelham Island Pale Rider.
If there's any foundation to certain rumours, they (allegedly) have much more in common than both being brewed in Sheffield, which could be why I can never choose between them.. When you get your snout over the glass for the first mouthfull – ahhhh.
Having said that, Landlord would get my vote, too.

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Mr G.

I'd have to vote for Old Peculiar. Glad to see others have mentioned it. It doesn't get many mentions on beer sites and blogs, but is an under-rated enduring classic. Phenomenally easy to drink for a beer of such strength and complexity.
Thanks for the tip about White Shield in Sainsburys – I've been trying in vain to get hold of some.

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Showbizguru

Hopback Summer Lightning.
Think summer.
Think the sound of leather on willow.
Think of a lone Spitfire silhouetted against the sinking red sun that is casting shadows over the village cricket green.
Think of Great Britain.
A bit of Elgar might get you in the mood too.

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Zak

Ah, I think I've just figured out what you want this beer for!

Good luck with it, and sad to say that I think I've been passed over 🙁

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