London 2012: Gold medal beer gets shut out
Josh Rubin, Toronto Star
As one of the world's great brewing nations, England is home to almost countless wonderful pale ales, strong bitters, porters and stouts. But if you're one of those lucky souls with tickets to the London Olympics, you wouldn't really know it.
That's because sponsorship rights were snapped up by Heineken. The Dutch brewing giant will have its flagship lager available at London 2012 Olympic venues, along with a couple of U.K. brands that it also owns, John Smith's Ale and Strongbow cider. In a land with such a rich and varied brewing culture, it's a paltry offering indeed. That sponsorship was referred to by one MP as a "wholly inappropriate decision."
Fortunately, we've got a better selection of English beer here in Ontario than they do in London for the Olympics. Here are a few good options if you'd like to toast the Games in style.
Fuller's London Pride: This classic English bitter is a study in balance, with the earthy notes of English hops holding their own against a gently-sweet malt base. It's also brewed right in Chiswick, close to Heathrow Airport. It's available at the LCBO for $2.80 a can.
Fuller's ESB: At 5.9 per cent alcohol, compared to London Pride's 4.7, this ESB (which stands for Extra Special Bitter) is a richer, slightly sweeter brew. It's a world classic, and also happens to be a devastatingly-good match for well-aged cheddar. It's also $2.80 a can.
Fuller's London Porter: A rich, dark, chocolate-tinged porter, this is for many beer aficionados a beer which defines the style. It's also from the city which created the style in the first place.
Thornbridge Kipling South Pacific Pale Ale: Don't be scared off by the $4.75 price tag for this outstanding pale ale, which hails from one of England's more creative craft breweries. It's got a luscious aroma of tropical fruit (gooseberry, lychee and kiwi come to mind), thanks to the exclusive use of Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand. It has, as they say across the pond, a rather moreish quality to it.
Hobgoblin: A warming, malty, strong bitter from Oxfordshire's Wychwood Brewery. It's a more traditionally-English beer than Thornbridge's unapologetically-tropical brew. It's got notes of caramel, dried fruit and a hint of spice. Like the Fuller's ESB, it's also good with strong, well-aged cheddar, and is a pretty fair match for roast lamb.