| Beer, Cask ale

Why Farage’s foaming pint is a testament to European integration and immigration

Thanks to an amazing Stoke Newington Literary Festival I haven’t had time to blog for about a month, which means I missed my chance to comment on the biggest visibility beer has had in national media for ages. 

What a shame it had to be under such circumstances.

Over the European elections last month, beer geeks across the country gloated at the seemingly daily photoshoots of everyone’s favourite former stockbroker hoisting a pint of cask ale. Because most of the time, Ukip’s leader seemed to opt for a pint of Greene King IPA. I can’t imagine there were too many happy executives in Bury St Edmunds each time Nigel Farage’s froggy face appeared with their distinctive branded glassware.

Of course, it was perfect stage management by this most politically astute and media-savvy party leader. Nothing is more iconic of Britain than a foaming pint of real ale. And Greene King IPA initially seems like the perfect choice. Loathed by the trendy craft beer-drinking liberal London media elite, it was until recently the best-selling cask ale in Britain, the drink of the common man whom Nigel pretends to be. 

But how this pint came to be in Farage’s hands is in fact a brilliant case study of the benefits of immigration and European integration – the very things Farage campaigns against.

Hopped beers first became popular in England in the fifteenth century, when they were imported into East Anglia (Greene King’s home) from Holland and Zeeland. The first recorded imports were for Dutch workers who weren’t great fans of sweet, Old English ale. (While hops were among a range of other flavourings used in beer from at least the 8th century, they start being mentioned with increasing regularity from the early fifteenth century). The tastes of the Dutch soon caught on with the English. Over the next century, immigrants from Holland and Zeeland settled in England and began brewing hopped beer that was so good it was exported back to the continent.

By the seventeenth century there was a thriving hop industry across the Weald of Kent. This was established by refugees from the Low Countries, fleeing religious persecution. Hop farms went on to become a defining feature of Kent – which is part of Farage’s constituency as an MEP – thanks entirely to European immigrants.

Flemish brewers also settled in Southwark. Excluded from the City of London by the powerful trades guilds, they set up business just outside the city walls and soon became celebrated for the quality of their beer. There were of course those who opposed this trend, and some of the protests against these brewers strayed into xenophobia. While the story of Henry VIII banning hops is a myth, their cultivation was banned in Norwich in 1471, in Shrewsbury in 1519 and Leicester in 1523. London’s ale brewers harassed and disparaged the immigrants they felt were coming over here and taking their jobs, which led to a writ being issued to the Sheriffs of London to proclaim that:

“All brewers of beer should continue their art in spite of malevolent attempts made to prevent natives of Holland and Zeeland and others from making beer, on the grounds that is was poisonous and not fit to drink and caused drunkenness, whereas it is a wholesome drink, especially in summer.”

The descendants of these brewers eventually made Southwark one of Europe’s great brewing centres, and hopped beer gradually replaced unhopped sweet English ale. 

While we’re talking about hops, the varieties we have today are another direct result of international cooperation and trade. Hops are creatures of climate, and change their character entirely if grown in a different terroir. While Greene King IPA uses English Challenger and First Gold hops, other Greene King beers use hops grown in Slovenia. Hops such as Styrian Golding and Aurora are the descendants of hops that emigrated there from the UK in the mid-nineteenth century. These delicate plants grow better in the microclimate of the Savinja valley, which is broadly similar to southern England but more stable, protected from damaging winds and storms.

At the same time as English hops were venturing abroad, foreigners were coming to Britain to help improve the quality of our beer. Louis Pasteur’s pioneering work with yeast finally solved the great mystery of how fermentation happened. He introduced the microscope (invented by Dutchmen) to British brewers for the first time, showing Whitbread and others how to analyse and understand the behaviour of yeast. A decade later Emil Hansen – a Dane – successfully isolated the first single cell yeast strains that allow brewers to brew consistent beer. 

These innovations helped create ‘running beer’ in the 1870s. Before we understood how fermentation worked, beer brewed in warm weather would spoil thanks to infection. Old beer styles such as porter and IPA would be brewed only in winter months, and were made strong enough to store and mature in cool cellars. Some of these ‘stock ales’ would then be blended with fresh beer before serving. But once we understood how yeast worked, and how to control it via temperature (using the scale developed by the Swede Anders Celsius, or perhaps the German Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit) we could brew beer all year round and serve it fresh from the cask, without long periods of storage. These ‘running beers’ essentially form the origin of modern cask ale.  

Throughout this entire period – the golden age of brewing science – it was customary for brewers to undertake study tours around the great breweries of Europe to compare notes. While the work of French and Danish brewing scientists with yeast helped lead to the creation of real ale, English pale malt expertise influenced the development of golden pilsner lager. Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg studied at Everard’s Brewery in Burton on Trent. Pilsner was born of a combination of Czech ingredients and German skill. Burton-on-Trent would never have become the home of brewing that gave us IPA if it were not for a previous strong relationship with the Baltic states.

British cask ale is the child of immigration and European integration, like so many of our national icons: the first recorded fish and chip shop was opened by a Jewish immigrant in 1860. The Great British cuppa comes from India. The designer of the Mini was a Greek immigrant. Buckingham Palace was originally built for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz – the German wife of George III. The famous clock and dials of Big Ben were designed by the son of a French draughtsman who fled to England during the Revolution.

And as for Nigel’s favourite brand, Greene King? 

Whether you like Greene Kings beers or not, the business has prospered under the leadership of current MD Rooney Anand, who took the reins in 2005. Rooney was born in Delhi and arrived here as an immigrant with his parents at the age of two.

Sorry Nige – the closer you look, the more you realise that all you hold dear is founded on tolerance and understanding, on the movement of people, ideas and influences around Europe, on Britain welcoming immigrants in, allowing them to shine, and watching as they help define our country with us.



Jeff Pickthall

It's interesting you describe Farage's face as "froglike".

I have a theory about Nige's europhobia. I reckon that because he has a foreign-sounding surname, as a kid he was teased was "Froggy Farage." He's been desperate to demonstrate his Englishness by bashing the French (and all other foreigners) ever since. I'd like to think he'd really lose his cool if "Froggy" was shouted at him by at a public meeting.


I'm sure the Ukippers will pile in and make these points, but you've made two errors.

The first is conflating the EU with Europe. In fact, one of the Ukip – and general Eurosceptic – slogans is "Love Europe, hate the EU". Dan Hannan often emphasises that Eurosceptics are *more* Europhile than EU-fans. They love the nations of Europe. They tend to speak more European langauges, tend to have lived and worked abroad. As Farage himself said recently: "I love Europe, it is a great place. I am married to a European, I've worked for European companies and I like European culture."

The second is assuming Ukip is against "the movement of people, ideas and influences around Europe". Actually, Ukip is aggressively free-market. Tim Congdon favours unilateral free trade (the one-sided droppping all import tarrifs). Only immigration is the wobbly area, where the core libertarian beliefs of Ukip come up against the more socially conservative ideas held by many of its members. Again, the basic principle is that no matter how immimigration is to be regulated (and very few people are fully open door) then it should be done so democratically, not by unelected-functionaries operating behind closed doors.

Other Eurosceptic groups, such as the Trades Union Congress, are far more insular. They would never dream of adopting free-trade etc. No one, as far as I aware, has proposed ending immigration fully, as you imply (or have they?).

I'm not saying Ukip is free from nutters (far from it, as a new party it's gathered all sorts of cranks and opportunists), but one ought to be able to criticise the EU without invoking the canard that this makes you anti-European.

Nice beer knowledge, by the way. Lovely to hear about European co-operation in a time before the beneficence of the Maastricht Treaty. How on earth did they manage it, I wonder?

Peter Allen

As ever a very good piece, but it is flawed by your main premise. UKIP and Nigel Farage are not against foreigners per se, what they are primarily against is the European Union. That vast, largely undemocratic body that generates about 75% of our laws. The same European Union that Tony Benn was also against!

Unfortunately, you've fallen for the hype whipped up by the establishment and media. Farage is against uncontrolled immigration as dictated by the EU rules.

When we joined the Common Market it was essentially a mutual trading organisation and, if that was still the case, there'd be no need for UKIP.

If you've ever listened to Nigel Farage you'll often here him say that he is more than happy to trade with foreign countries on an equal basis.

How many countries in the world allow uncontrolled immigration – not USA, not China, not Australia, not Japan…I could go on!

This country (and most others as well)has benefited from immigration and will continue to do so and, if you sat down for a pint with him, I'm sure Nigel Farage would agree as long as it is controlled immigration.

The only real problem with UKIP is that they do seem to attract too many fruitcakes and xenophobes into their ranks.

I'm not a UKIP member and I don't think that they'd make a good government, but they do have some points that appeal to a lot of people that the main parties need to address as shown by the recent elections.


What a pity you didn't bother to actually research the subject before putting finger to keyboard. If you had, you would have realised that UKIP actually supports a policy of controlled immigration as practised by countries such as Australia and Canada. It does not advocate a total ban on immigration. However, we are unable to do this while we remain members of the EU. But, hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good rant?


As Milton Friedman famously said, "You can have unrestricted immigration from poor countries to rich ones. Or you can have a Welfare State. But you can't have both."

Martyn Cornell

You can say "ah no, UKIP is really pro-Europe and pro-controlled immigration, just anti-EU and anti-uncontrolled immigration' as much as you like but the bald fact is that it attracts the anti-all immigrant vote, the anti-all foreigners vote, the racists and the nutters and needs to be opposed not for what it claims to stand for but what it gives the unspoken nod and wink to.


Sorry, but he wasn't known as 'Froggy Farage' at school – not by me or anyone else in our class. He wasn't even known as 'Fuggles Farage'! He was known, in good old sarf London speak as 'Farridge' as in "Oi, Farridge" (to rhyme with 'porridge'. As to where the embarrassingly affected way his name is pronounced now, that's surely to appeal to, well I'll leave that to you…

douglas sheehan

Ukip aren't against foreigners, they'rejust against poor foreigners. They don'twant foreigners coming here and working for starvation wages, they want foreigners to come here and pay British workers starvation wages.


Pete, you're stating the bleedin' obvious, if you don't mind my saying so. Yes, food and drink have been foreign-influenced since forever (by pure coincidence my bogside book at the moment is Consuming Passions!). Big whoop. But Faragism isn't inherently racist, although an awful lot of racists have taken it to their hearts. I remember being lectured at length buy Sam Silkin on the subject of the EU (Or EC, as it was then); Farage could be repeating him word for word. Where Farage falls down is that he believes in the free movement of capital but not the free movement of labour, and you can't have one without the other (ask any Gulf sheikh how he'd spend his oil billions without Palestinian and Bangladeshi slave labour, or any redneck farmer who'd pick his crop if not sub-minimum wetbacks!).


Didn't think I would have to do this, but then again I didn't think so many of my readers were sympathetic to an organisation that thrives on sowing fear, suspicion and hatred among people. So let me explain myself.

This piece is broadly satirical.

In order to make the case that cask ale is due entirely to immigration and European integration, I had to be highly selective. While every fact here is true (including the bit about the Greek guy inventing the Mini!), to create my narrative I had to miss key things out. I have massively oversimplified the history of cask ale. I have twisted the facts to fit my case. When I had the bare bones of my argument, I went looking for things that supported it and ignored anything that didn't.

This, you see, was a pisstake of a party that has linked membership of the EU to immigration in order to assert that 'bloody foreigners' are the root of all our ills. A party that creates fear and mistrust by suggesting that the entire population of a country is going to move here. A party that won't even tell its voters what its policies are on anything other than stopping immigration and leaving the EU. I've glossed over inconvenient truths that don't suit me, oversimplified and blurred the lines, because that's what they do.

Mudgie says there's a difference between immigration and uncontrolled immigration, between Europe and the EU. There is, and I'm sure that somewhere in the smallprint (if indeed Ukip's policies are printed anywhere) this distinction is made clear. But it certainly wasn't clear in poster campaigns, party political broadcasts and endless newspaper interviews which consistently attempt to create fear of foreigners, full stop.

Also, I thought it was a nice opportunity to write something about the history of beer with a topical hook.

Also, I like to imagine that if Nigel Farage were ever to read this for some reason, it would really piss him off.

Cooking Lager

yeh, whatever, but what of all these polish and bulgarian beer writers and bloggers comin' over 'ere, drinkin' our IPA's and bloggin' on our t'internet?

What about opportunities in beer blogging for school leavers?


"I didn't think so many of my readers were sympathetic to an organisation that thrives on sowing fear, suspicion and hatred among people"

Oh noes! Some of your readers have different political opinions from yourself!

Do you think that a group of Labour MPs were unjustified in suggesting that Labour must take tougher line on 'mass migration' from Europe?

It may not seem a pressing issue in your North London ivory tower, but on the ground in, say, Barnsley, it might be something of major concern to voters.

"Also, I like to imagine that if Nigel Farage were ever to read this for some reason, it would really piss him off."

I'd expect he couldn't really give a shit. On the other hand, I'm sure he finds it really amusing how UKIP manages to rattle the cage of bien-pensant metropolitan lefties.


Yay, there you go, Mudgie!

Whenever people of your political persuasion lose an argument on intrinsics, you resort to personal insults and petty name calling. Regular as clockwork.

"North London Ivory tower?"

"Bien-pensant metropolitan leftie"?

You're hilarious. Go on, write some more funny things!


Hasn't Mudgie gone sweary? No but, y'all shouldn't get so riled up. Any fule kno that ukip would have stayed a jolly joke had they not been a convenient bogie-man for the establishment, desperate to distract us from the urgent neccessity for genuine radical change. Or something. We'll miss them when they're gone.

Paul Bailey

I’m sorry to learn that it’s a problem for you Pete, that some of your readers may have differing political views to your own. Moral of tale; don’t try writing an overtly political piece, interspersed with a few historical beer facts, and then claim it’s a beer blog. Or, if you do decide to write a blatantly political post, don’t be surprised if people have the audacity to disagree with you!

Most of us have enough sense to keep politics out of our beer writing, so save this sort of thing for the New Statesman, or better still, Socialist Worker.


Paul – I'll use my blog to write about whatever I like, thanks.

My entire career has been based on linking beer to the rest of the world, whether it's food, music, history, marketing or whatever. Politics is inextricably tied up with beer and it always has been.

This was an entirely relevant post because Farage has made beer into a political symbol – all party leaders are now rushing to be seen pulling pints in the pub because of him and this is something worthy of comment. I'll be writing more about that particular aspect elsewhere.

I'm not apologising for anything and I'm totally comfortable with people having political vies that differ from mine. 95% of people in the industry are to the right of me politically and I get on perfectly well with them. I just feel uncomfortable with the idea that some of my readers might sympathise with a party that attracts racists, sexists and homophobes, that's all. And yes, I know Ukip itself isn't racist – although many of its utterances are – but it does seem to have an awful lot of bigots in its ranks, doesn't it?

Beer for me is sociable and friendly. It brings people together. It fosters tolerance and understanding. That's what I love about it and I'll carry on pushing that agenda whenever and however I see fit.


If we're mixing beer and politics, how about Newcastle PCC and Herts County Council both trying to limit beer sales to 5.5% and under? This started in Ipswich and is spreading…
Once they get this in it'll be ratcheted down and down, until we're all on shandy!


Thank you for not steering away from controversial subjects appropriation of British culture or cultural icons is infuriating.

Dave Bailey

You know, I like Pete's piece here. I'm not as leftie as Pete, and I sometimes disagree with his point of view, but he's quite endearing with his version of socialism. The last bit of his last comment rings true with me.

But, more importantly about beer writing. I think it is important to be able to weave into the subject of beer any other topic that can be made relevant, even if only tenuously. There is, after all, only so much you can say about the last beer you drank, and the one before, and the one before that. After a while it does become all a bit meaningless.

The arguments about cask vrs keg, sparklers or not, the use of crystal malt, whether the smoking ban should be lifted or many other subjects that have by now become tedious, can only lead to eventual boredom.

Well done Pete, keep up the good work at keeping beer writing relevant, interesting and lively. We need more stuff like this.

Professor Pie-Tin

" I didn't think so many of my readers were sympathetic to an organisation that thrives on sowing fear, suspicion and hatred among people."

Stick to blogging about beer,old cock,rather than ejaculating Guardian-Lite.
You misunderstand the concerns of many ordinary beer drinkers and you make the same mistake the Westminster politicians who underestimated UKIP's popularity have made.
Wanting controlled immigration and less unelected European control over our lives does not make UKIP supporters either racist or stupid.
I credited you with more intelligence, to be honest.

Professor Pie-Tin

" Where Farage falls down is that he believes in the free movement of capital but not the free movement of labour, and you can't have one without the other "
Have you been to the USA lately ?
Or Australia ? Or Canada ?
Need I go on ?


Oh God, not another one.

Prof, telling me what I can and can't quite about is never going to work.

Questioning someone's intelligence just because they disagree with you is a nasty, condescending, patronising gambit and makes the person doing it look lie a twat – not the person they're criticising.

If I don't like Ukip, would you suggest I go and live in 'a black country' such as 'bongo bongo land'? Sorry, I just struggle to see the 'Anti-EU, not anti-immigration' slant on comments like that.

During the election campaign Ukip didn't produce literature criticising EU institutions and policies. It created fear around Romanians. They used racist, anti-European language – not political, anti-EU language. Of course – if they ever published any officially ratified manifesto policies, we'd be able to pore over them to see which of us was right, wouldn't we?

Professor Pie-Tin

If you don't mind me saying so your rather hysterical responses to some of the perfectly reasonable comments made about your piece is why I questioned your intelligence.
Do you think that suggesting people who support UKIP's policies on CONTROLLED immigration and a withdrawal from the EU are sympathetic to a party " that thrives on sowing fear, suspicion and hatred among people" isn't patronising ?
Or that " I just feel uncomfortable with the idea that some of my readers might sympathise with a party that attracts racists, sexists and homophobes " isn't nasty and condescending.
UKIPs big increase in support at the European elections was across the political spectrum which suggests all the major parties contain the very people you despise.
And of course you can write about whatever you wish – it's just the rather foolish generalisations about a party you don't like betray much more ignorance about politics than beer, of which you're an undoubted expert.


If you want to blog about politics, start a politics blog and see how many people read it.

If you turn a beer blog into a political soapbox covering issues going well beyond neer, pubs and brewing, then you will just succeed in pissing off lots of your readers.


Anon, please see my comment a few spots up about why I write about all sorts of stuff in relation to beer.

This is a beer blog. Beer stretches across all sorts of areas. I don't lean on making too many political points but if any politician makes beer central to their image/appeal that makes it relevant to my blog.

And I'm perfectly happy to lose any readers with racist, sexist and/or homophobic sympathies.

Professor Pie-Tin

I don't see any comments on here that express racist,sexist and/or homophboic tendencies.

But I do read a number of posters who think you're making a bit of a fool of yourself.

And that's a shame because in all matters drink related you normally exhibit a sure touch.

Attempting to justfiy an attack on UKIP in a beer blog because its leader likes a pint smacks of desperation I'm afraid.

When can we expect normal service to be resumed ?


You dodge my points with alacrity, Prof. What I keep saying perfectly is that Ukip itself persistently flirts with racist etc rhetoric, and I'd be suspicious of anyone who diesnlt have a problem with that.

Having reread the thread, when you say it's me who's being hysterical I can only assume you mean hysterically funny. Thanks for the compliment!


Ten years on and look at the mess the country is in, post Brexit.
As for the free movement of people, the main argument in favour of leaving the EU, well the movement has never been freer! 300% increase in immigration since Brexit (most come from countries well beyond Europe’s borders) and few of them with the skills in farming and hospitality that the EU citizens provided.


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