Tag Archives: England

Royal favour

The Prince of Wales enjoys a pint at the Olde Ship Inn, Seahouses, Northumberland.

Light beer, like the Germans, has never invaded these shores.


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Brewing is Back

As I mentioned in a previous post, graduate school is doing its best to take over my life.  Now that summer is here, though, I’m attempting to make the most of time and brew while I can, and hereby declare summer 2012 “The Summer of Brews.”

First up in the summer rotation, last month, was an English Best Bitter in the style of Oxfordshire’s Brakspear.  The recipe and ingredients were from Northern Brewer’s limited-release “Broken Spear” kit, to which I added 1/2 oz UK Pilgrim hops to the dry-hop bill.  In honor of Oxford’s finest, I named it Taverner’s Bitter.  Along with this brewing re-boot I’ve also given my labels something of a facelift as well.

Full disclosure: John Taverner is one of my favourite composers of all time.  It’s fitting, therefore, that he finally get his own label, and doubly fitting that it be for one of my favourite beer styles (and, fortuitously after the fact, one of my favourite homebrew recipes). And what an especially apt name for a beer.

Historical trivia:  Taverner, appointed by Wolsey as the first organist and master of the Choristers at Cardinal College (later renamed Christ Church), Oxford, was reprimanded in 1528 for heresy (consorting with Lutherans), but was spared punishment on account of his being “but a musician.”  He retired from musical life at the College in 1530, enjoying a comfortable 15-year retirement as a landowner in Lincolnshire.  An old legend states that he worked as a spy and agent for Thomas Cromwell, assisting in the dissolution of the monasteries, but this is most certainly not true.  He was, interestingly, one of the very first English composers to write for the viol consort, inventing and popularizing the form of the In nomine which was to remain a mainstay of English instrumental writing through the time of Henry Purcell.

While I’m still brewing extract (aside from the occasional partial-mash), I’m on the verge of moving to all-grain brewing. It’s a bit intimidating to ponder, but I know that in the long run it will be a good move, allowing not only cost savings but also more control and versatility.  Stay tuned for updates on this technique shift.

At the end of the day, after an 8-month hiatus in brewing, it’s good to know that I can still cook up a tasty brew.

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Filed under English Beer, Famous People, Homebrewing, St. Cecilia Brewery

Perm’s Picks, England Edition: Vol.2

For the next instalment, another pint bottle lovingly and successfully returned via our luggage to Virginia.

(photo courtesy of the Brakspear Website)

The Brakspear Brewery of Oxforshire dates to the 18th century.

500 mL bottle purchased in Cambridge, UK in May 2011, brought back to the US and opened in July.

The minute I popped the bottle, I was transported back to the UK.
In the glass, it’s a handsome copper-amber with a nice glow. Little head retention, but I don’t care — it makes it look like a cask pull!

On the nose, wonderful hints of toast, brown sugar, faint fuggles, and lots of florals.
The taste is a perfectly balanced maltiness with a fine bitter snap to finish. Just a hint of butter in there, but it’s neither distracting nor detracting. It possesses the perfect balance of oily coating and spritzy scrubbing-bubbles.
At 3.4%, it’s the model of a well-balanced, superbly crafted session ale, and proof that high strength is no prerequisite for a great beer. The maltiness leans a bit heavy, but I’ve no serious complaints.
All round, an extremely agreeable Bitter and a pleasant companion for the evening. This would be ideal with Shepherd’s Pie, English Tikka Masala, or ye olde Fish & Chips.

Ap: 4
S: 4.5
T: 4
P: 5
O: 4.5

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Mr. Jefferson Comes Home


“I am lately become a brewer for family use, having had the benefit of instruction to one of my people by an English brewer of the first order.”

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Coppinger, 1815

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Filed under and More, beer history, Famous People, Homebrewing

Beer in Literature, I

Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936), classicist, scholar, and poet:

“Terence, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can’t be much amiss, ’tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, ’tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.
Pretty friendship ’tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.”
Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
The mischief is that ’twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.
Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
‘Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the snack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul’s stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.
There as a king reigned in the east:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
–I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

(A Shropshire Lad, No.LXII)

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Filed under and More, English Beer

When in England…

…drink beer.

This website will help you decide where.

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Filed under and More, Beer and Food, English Beer, pubs

Wolcum, Yule!

Each year the Old Brewery (aka Samuel Smiths) brews their Winter Welcome Ale.  And each year, we eagerly look forward to it.

On this blustery and cold December night, I decided to crack into my remaining bottle of last year’s (09-10) vintage, which has been patiently biding its time since last Christmas.  And it is a glorious thing.

Served up in my Allagash footed glass, it is a remarkable beverage.

Appearance : Glorious golden amber with ample antique-white foam. 5/5
Smell: Biscuit up front with notes of vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, sour apple, and dry hops. 4/5
Taste: Wonderfully nuanced and balanced, lots of malt, a hint of sourness, and warming all the way. 4.5/5
Mouthfeel: Luxuriously oily, with the perfect amount of carbonated snap. Smooth and silky. 5/5
Overall: A perfect companion for those cold winter nights. This guy drinks like an old, long-lost friend. 4.5/5

The 2010/2011 edition has already been released, but if you happen upon any of last year’s, don’t overlook it!

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Filed under beer pick, Breweries, English Beer, review