ABOUT GREAT BRITAIN
The iconic island off the northwest coast of Europe has a rightful place in any beer enthusiast’s bucket list. The three countries that share the island (Scotland, England, and Wales) have their own unique cultural identity, while also sharing several common threads: breathtaking scenery; urbane, modern cities; small, bustling market and university towns; and a lively, spirited citizenry.
When it comes to beer, most of the action is in England and Wales. (Scotland has a vigorous craft beer industry growing, but most Scots still prefer their namesake whiskey.) Tradition and progressiveness blend well in England, home to the ubiquitous Bass Ale and Newcastle Brown, as well as hundreds of local and regional breweries, both old and new, improving on classic beer styles that have been at the forefront of the craft beer renaissance. Pale Ales and Bitter, IPAs and ESBs, Porters, Dark Mild Ales, and sweet Scotch Ales are all mainstays of the modern British microbrewery, and the much-beloved pubs that serve as the focal point for so much of British life.
The evolution of the pub is truly remarkable. The oldest existing pubs in Britain date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Many country pubs are from the 17th and 18th centuries, and were notable for the visitors who enjoyed meals or beds for the night, including kings and queens, writers and composers, and all manner of nobles and celebrities. Yet the pub was at its best when hosting the local townsfolk; the name pub is short for “public house,” which perfectly describes so many of them. Owned by a couple, or a small family, the house usually had a couple rooms in the front which were thrown open to the public for a couple hours at midday, then again for the “evening session,” usually from 7 until 11pm. Food was very limited then; usually just small snacks. The point of visiting the pub was to have a beer, visit with friends, and maybe enjoy some local music.
Only in the last 30 years or so, has the pub has become a more family-friendly destination. (In fact, some pubs banned everyone under 16 from ever setting foot inside the building, condemning families such as mine [when my brother and I were youngsters visiting our grandparents in the 1970’s] to seek out other options when traveling in Britain.) These days, stories like that are amusing anecdotes, as most pubs worth visiting have ample space for both locals and tourists alike, plentiful food options, and of course, a plethora of great beer to choose from!
Of course, to most people, visiting England means one place: London. There have been volumes of books written on this incredible metropolis, and no visit to England is complete without stopping here. The sights, the museums, the palaces, and the cultural diversity of London is nearly unrivalled anywhere in the world. Many others, however, believe that the “real” England starts after you leave London. Quiet country scenery, punctuated by small cities, towns and villages, provide a true essence of what makes British life so special and intriguing to travelers from around the world.
As the proud son of an Englishman, I am thrilled to be able to share my life-long love of Great Britain with Craft Beer Journeys’ clients. Tours centered in Britain, or that include Britain as part of a multi-country itinerary, will feature peeks behind the curtain into the genuine sights, sounds, and people that make it all so appealing.
When beer enthusiasts think of the styles of beer that are now so prevalent in the USA, it doesn’t take long to realize many of those styles originated in Great Britain. Groups interested in tours devoted to those styles, therefore, should know that Craft Beer Journeys is ready and eager to show off the country that developed and perfected them.