Beer guide to England
Four hundred breweries produce more than 750 different bottled ales
UK Beers: In the UK, the words "British beer" summon thoughts of locals sipping local draught outside thatched pubs. While pubs are dotted all over the country both in and outside of metropolitan areas, the availability of local draught is less common within cities as it was overtaken by lager, which occupies nearly 70 per cent of the UK market.
There are only four major UK-based breweries that dominate the UK market, three of which are foreign owned. The big breweries mainly produce lagers and often use modern industrial brewing methods and standardised recipes, resulting in UK brewed beers that aren’t strictly British. These breweries include Scottish and Newcastle (which produce Foster‘s and Kronenbourg), Coors (from the US), Anheuser-Busch InBev (which produce Stella Artois) and Carlsberg of Denmark.
In response to this dominance, provincial breweries began to fill the demand for traditional brews and even smaller craft beer breweries have emerged. While on-tap ales available at airports are likely to be mass produced, it’s always worth asking if the bar sells a local ale, either draught or bottled.
The UK has 400 breweries that produce more than 750 different bottled ale labels not including Guinness and Murphy’s Stout. So, to help travelling beer lovers seek out a new airport beer experience in the UK, we’re listing the local brews that are most likely to be available at regional airport bars. At any UK airport, beer lovers should look for a Pub-style bar as these are most likely to carry a range of bottled ales as well as draught beer.
Brews to look out for
The three main International hubs are Heathrow,Gatwick, and London City. Stansted and Luton, to the north of London, mainly serve holiday destinations.
Heathrow: The Harlequin Alehouse & Eatery in Heathrow’s Terminal 1 (after security) or the 5 Tuns in Terminal 5 (before security) should stock a range of ales including Old Nick containing 7.2 per cent alcohol or Vintage Ale 2007 at 8.5 per cent alcohol. Also, try asking for Spitfire ale produced by family-owned brewer Shepherd Neame and contains 4.5 per cent ABV.
Gatwick: Pub-style bars can be found in the North Terminal, namely the Globe, Lloyds No.1 Bar and The Red Lion (Wetherspoons). The South Terminal has The Bridge Bar and the Flying Horse (Wetherspoons), which are located after security, and The Village (Wetherspoons), located before security. All claim to serve draught and bottled beers most of which will be similar to those found at Heathrow.
Stansted: Bars here include Wetherspoons, Est Bar Est, and the worldwide Irish bar chain O’Neill’s which will undoubtedly serve Guinness. The region’s best known brewery is Greene & King at Bury St Edmunds, which produces a range of ten bottled beers including Abbot Ale at 5 per cent ABV and the 6 per cent Abbot Reserve. Ruddles is another Bury-area brewery, which produces Ruddles Organic containing 5.1 per cent alcohol and is likely to be available at this airport.
London’s Luton airport doesn’t offer any pub-style bars and is unlikely to serve any local brews.
Southampton airport: The airport’s neighbouring Hampshire Breweries, which boasts 26 different ales is most famous for the 6 per cent ABV 1066. Another likely brew to be available at this airport is Old Thumper containing 5.6 per cent ABV, made by the Ringwood Brewery, another local producer. The Blandford (Dorset) based family-owned Badger Brewery markets its product strongly in the region and you may find one of its 17 brews such as the 5.7 per cent Poachers Choice or 3.8 per cent Badgers Original at the airport.
Bristol and Exeter airports: Most likely to stock Badger beers as well as the 4.5 per cent Barnstormer produced by Bath Ales.
Birmingham airport: Brewers in this part of the UK include The Highgate Brewery in Walsall, which offers two strong ales 5.3 per cent Old Ale and 6.5 per cent Old Ember, or the Worcester-based Springhead Brewery, which produces 5.7 per cent Roaring Meg and 6.2 per cent Cromwell’s Head. The nearby area of Burton-on-Trent is synonymous with dark stouts; Burton Bridge Brewery produces a stout and a porter of 4.5 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively, plus an ale called Tickle Brain at 8 per cent ABV. Marstons Brewery in the same town produces 15 labels, from stouts to pale ales, so it’s worth asking for its 5.7 per cent Old Empire.
Manchester and Leeds airports: Servicing the regions of Lancashire and Yorkshire, famous for their brewing traditions. A Yorkshire label to look out for is the Black Sheep Brewery, which produces six beers in Masham including the 5.7 per cent Riggwelter Ale. Masham’s other brewery, Theakston, has managed to carve out a national brand image with its Cool Cask, XB and Paradise Ale, all 4 per cent plus beers.
Harrogate, north of Leeds airport, is home to Daleside Brewery, which produces seven beers including 5.5 per cent Crack Shot and 5.3 per cent Monkey Wrench. Another regional producer is Thirsk’s Hambledon Ales brewery that might appear behind the bar; lookout for GFB, GFA, Stud or Taylor’s Tipple, all around 5 per cent ABV.
One of the North Yorkshire Brewery’s nine brands may also find its way to the airport, particularly the 4.7 per cent Flying Herbert. In the ancient City of York, the York Brewery’s 5.2 per cent Centurion’s Ghost Ale and 4.2 per cent York Minster are definitely worth trying. A Yorkshire brewer known all over the UK through its TV advertising is Samuel Smith, which produces both stouts and ales and also its own lager. The 5 per cent Taddy Porter and 6 per cent Winter Welcome Ale are two names that stand out from Samuel Smith’s line-up.
Manchester airport may provide Dragonheart, Christmas Ale or Raisin Beer, all 5 per cent beers from Liverpool-based Cains Brewery. Manchester’s own J.W.Lees produce 5 per cent John Willies, 11.5 per cent Harvest 2000, and 4.2 per cent Coronation Street – named after the UK’s long-running TV soap opera. The other local Joseph Holt brewery adds the 3.5 per cent Hum Dinger and the 4.7 per cent Maplemoon to look out for.
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Updated April 2013