What should our national beer be?

Posted by on Mar 19, 2015 in Editorial | 11 Comments

‘You ain’t a wren voter, are ya?’Robin1

It’s the decision that has gripped Britain. The online poll to select our first national bird (cue lots of jokes about Barbara Windsor). Will it be the puffin or the Mute Swan? Again, jokes about the latter not speaking up for itself. Seriously, this poll is comedy gold. On the face of it, it seems to be a two-bird race between the robin and the wren – us Brits being a nation of garden-birdwatchers. Surprisingly, the Golden Eagle doesn’t feature, although maybe there are political machinations afoot to quell the already uproarious Scots from getting even more above our/their stations (amusingly the link there states the RSPB’s request for said eagle to be Scotland’s national bird was dismissed on a technicality).

Anyway, thinking about the glory of our national birds got me to thinking about another of our majestic British sights – the foaming pint of beer in a countryside pub. Or the chill-haze-sharp tayberry Berliner Weisse poured at absolute zero from a eco-keg. Or a blastingly zesty IPA handed over in a carboard drinking tube on an east London industrial estate. Trouble is, there are so many quintessential British beer-drinking experiences, how can we ever decide which of the liquids themselves could be our national British beer? Well, it has to be a classic, something comforting and noble. So how about these four?


Quiet, drab and therefore an easily-concealed, often-overlooked part of our national landscape; bitter is the quintessentially British beer style. From Boring Brown to…er…Lesser Boring Brown, it is portrayed across the full gamut of flavours and expressions. Best drunk in quiet pubs, broken only by the soundtrack of rustling crisp packets and the quiet thunk of Father Time. Britain in a glass.


But what could be more British that the beer on which an Empire was forged? Our past glories may have been celebrated on verandas with tea, but those who did the heavy lifting drank beer. India Pale Ale is our gift to the world. Like cricket, since improved/ruined by everyone else getting involved, but then nowhere else plays a forward defensive with as quite a straight bat, do they?

Pale Ale

Oft-overlooked, yet formerly dotting about the country in abundance, the Pale Ale is a beer that has also been adopted and enriched by pretty much every brewery since (there is sort of a theme developing here). The finest exports of Burton-on-Trent and Edinburgh have changed considerably since they were so ubiquitous – yet the rustling of hedgerows proves they still exist.


Another style gifted to the world, the presence of which is often manifested by a familiar call early in the morning; that of the market porter. The characteristic dawn chorus is symbolic of this particular beer, and like all the others in this list, denotes history and pure and simple Britishness. But is it more British than others?

A tough call, maybe. What should our national British beer style be?


  1. Peter Chnupa
    March 19, 2015

    Lol I actually made a beer a while ago that was called Červienka. That is the Slovak word for robin 🙂

    Červienka could be roughly translated as “little red” or “red-bird” or whatever, červená is the base word and it means red.

    The beer was a flanders red and scored 44/100 points due to (I cite one of the judges) “the lack of body” 😀 😀

    IMO a nice beer and nice story to go with it. Just wanted to let you know 🙂

  2. James Wrobel
    March 19, 2015


    (I jest)

    Actually- no I don’t, It’s at least as British as the Royal Family and plays a much more vital role in the propping up of our* national identity

    * for as long as it lasts

  3. Graham Ford
    March 19, 2015

    It’s a hard one, especially since IPA was reborn as a hop-beast. Every brewery it there is now developing their own. There are some really good bitters out there now e.g. North Riding by Truefitt Brewing Company. Porter has also been given a face-lift and pale ale is everywhere.
    I would choose IPA as it seems more representatuve of British brewing. Porter, bitter and pale ale seem much more English in style.
    With IPA being exported to India where Brits from all four kingdoms could slake their thirst, it seems like a logical choice.

  4. Phil Morton
    March 19, 2015

    80 /- is a shoe-in 🙂
    Let’s hear it for a good old pint of Mild, seriously, it’s under-rated, especially these days.
    I’d go for Porter out of the ones listed though, given its long history and general loveliness.

  5. steve
    March 19, 2015

    mild of course

  6. Richard
    March 19, 2015

    Mild, the fifth Beatle. How could I forget it?.’Session stout’ for the craft generation…

  7. Geoff
    March 19, 2015

    I’m going out on a limb and saying there shouldn’t be one. It’s like saying there should be an official British accent – whatever you pick is going to have very local connections and connotations. Maybe have twelve, one per month, and then we can pick a few seasonal specialities too, a Scottish wee heavy in December, a nice West Country scrumpy for harvest time in September and so on.

  8. Richard
    March 19, 2015

    Ever the diplomat, Geoff

  9. Neil
    March 20, 2015

    just like our football teams there shouldn’t be one……when it comes to traditional beers anyway I think the differences in tastes between the countries are hugely different i think….

  10. Mike F
    March 21, 2015

    At the moment, crap lager it the national beer of choice. Fosters, Carling, Coors, Stella, Amstel, Heineken, Kronenbourg, Tennant’s etc. Reckon they cover a bloody good fraction of beer drunk. It would have been Bitter 50 years ago and mild before that. Porter even further back. It may be one of these again or a different reinvented style, but not yet. It is still crap lager.

  11. Kim MCAllister
    June 10, 2015

    What about Innis and Gunn’s rum cask? Sums us up: we want beer, whisky and rum all in the one bottle thanks very much.

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