By Victoria Rombis
So no, I didn’t have beer with the Queen. But now that you’re here, strap in for a blogtacular journey through the things I learned about beer on my trip to England, Scotland and Ireland!
1. Hand-pumped beers (aka real/cask ales)
Usually, you head out to a pub, pray for there to be some sort of half-decent craft beer on tap, and order a pint of that in a cool frosty glass, am I right? NOT ACROSS THE POND, YOU DON’T! At almost every pub I went to in all three countries, there was some type of hand-pumped cask ale on tap. This means that instead of kegs under the bar in a beer fridge, they have casks of extra special beer hanging out in the basement or beer cellar of the pub (usually kept at just below room temperature) and they manually pump the beer through the lines and up to the bar to serve a pint. This ALSO means that all of the carbonation is naturally occurring – I know what you’re thinking, “who wants to drink (comparatively) warm, flat beer??” I’ll tell you who – you. Although not as crisp (generally speaking) as the carbonated beers I’m used to in good ol’ Ontario, this method of serving beer makes one really appreciate the subtlety and flavour of the beer. I tasted as many of these cask ales as possible, some of my favourites being the Broughton Ales Elder Power, Siren Craft Brew Gueuze-style Sour, and By The Horns Samba King Rye Blonde Ale. Also, it sort of makes you feel like a badass Englishman from the 1700s or something.
2. Don’t mess with Irish people and their Guinness
I’ll be the first to admit that Guinness is by no means my favourite stout. Although I don’t consider this style my favourite, I’ve had many stouts and porters that I adore because of their complexity and balanced sweetness and bitterness (J.W. Sweetman Porter, Wellington Brewery Chocolate Milk Stout, Amsterdam Brewery Tempest Imperial Stout). However, when in Dublin, a beer fan is pretty obligated to stop by the Guinness Storehouse, because this experience is mind blowing. Arthur Guinness was making beer and employing thousands of Irish people for a good 100 or so years before Canada was even a Confederation! The story of Guinness is a story of the evolution of transportation, storage and brewing of beer, and one that everyone should respect.
3. Beer is a tasty addition to stews/pies
When we landed in Edinburgh at about 2pm, once we hiked (so many hills) to our place and ditched our stuff, we hit up a pub, as one does in Scotland. Little did we know that we stumbled upon an absolute gem of a place called the Rose St. Brewery where we ate the first of, admittedly, many meat pies flavored with some type of ale. I can’t even begin to explain the richness and warmth that you experience when you eat a traditional Scottish or Irish stew, with the added depth of the ale in the gravy. To die for. See more gems – The Celt Bar , Biddy Mulligans, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Ye Olde Six Bells.
4. It’s hard to bring beer home
Much to my chagrin, I was unable to bring home any of the tasty beer that I had in these places, mainly due to the fact that I had one backpack to carry everything I needed in (the best way to do it, will never travel with a suitcase again if I don’t have to). A lot of what I sad, sadly, is not available in our fair LCBO; save for the delicious Brewdog Punk IPA (which you can also find on tap at The Caledonian on Ossington), Fuller’s London Pride, and Smithwicks; all of which I picked up as soon as I got home!
I had an amazing time traveling through these three countries and would definitely recommend a trip across the pond to any of you readers out there. Cheers!
About the Author
Thrown headlong into the Toronto craft scene by her
adoration for the sustainable and local business,
Victoria holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies.
She works in the bottle shop of one of Ontario’s
best craft breweries, and adores the children she
teaches dance, a good book, and investigating new beer.