Maybe it’s poor form for me to tell you I got to go somewhere really cool and try some unusual, delightful and rare beers – but don’t think of it as travel bragging. Think of it as me sharing my experiences in the international craft beer world for your enjoyment. There! Isn’t that better?
Last summer, the family and I were lucky enough to spend some time in London. I was immensely stoked about this, not only because I’m an unapologetic Anglophile, but also because the beer culture in the UK — and in Europe in general — is very different from our side of the pond. I couldn’t wait to dive into some of the local offerings and see what could be seen.
Some of you are going to ask, after you read this, “Jeff, you tool! Why didn’t you write about the cask ales you tried?” In answer to that — I think that I did right after I got back, and there was a heat wave going on that soured almost every single cask I got to, so there. As a result, we’re talking about packaged beers.
There’s a little place called Kew that is down the Thames from London (there’s an amazing garden and sweet little palace complex there) and the village itself is quite charming. We had tea at The Maids of Honour which has a history dating back to Henry VII (!) and it was there that I got to have Twickenham Honey Dark Strong Honeyed Mild (that’s a mouthful).
This one poured very dark, just on the edge of black. There wasn’t a bunch of head, but that wasn’t really off style (Milds are often enjoyed on cask, where there is minimal carbonation, so I wasn’t put off). When I drink a dark beer, especially being used to American stouts, I always anticipate a roasty punch in the mouth. This was the opposite. This was an artfully subtle brew. Roasted barley notes mingled with chocolate, and honey danced around the pair. Sweetness, with just a touch of hop bitterness accentuated by the dark malts made this beer a memorable drink. I’m still thinking about it a year later. So good!
My next favorite was a bit more on the gimmicky side of things: Yeastie Boys Gunamatta Early Grey IPA. Jeff, what are you doing drinking New Zealand beer in London? Living the life, son. That’s what I’m doing. This one poured an orange-ish golden, with plenty of foamy head. Aroma was of citrus hops, Earl Grey, and lemon. Taste was similar; loads of citrus hops, with lemon swirling around the Earl Grey. I was extremely suspicious of this beer, but was blown away by how skillfully all of these things were melded together. Beer. Tea. Lemon. How? Zymurgy, my friend. Or alchemy. Or maybe both. Regardless, a great beer that I’d buy here if I could get it.
The moral of the story is there are loads and loads of wonderful beers out there. Some are right next door, and some are a world away. As long as you’re seeking them, and as long as you’re enjoying the searching as much as the finding, I think you’re doing it right. Get out there and go getchoo some!