As we’re about to enter into the New Year celebrations, here’s a brief guide to some of the drinking habits of British people. Some of these will be very familiar, and some won’t. We will be looking at famous British drinks, less-than-famous British drinks, spirits, beers, all sorts. Which should prove to be useful, the next time you roll into a pub and say “gimme a beer,” without specifying which beer and how much of it you want.
For example, and to get us started, pictured here are two British beer delivery systems. The metal tankard, often given as an 18th birthday present and, in rural communities, kept behind the bar. The glass beer mug is a little more familiar, and contans a pale ale (or possibly lager).
Here are fifteen common British beers. While we’re here, can we dispel the myth that beer is a thing which has to be served as close to freezing point as is humanly possible? It’s nice when the lighter beers are cold, but if you’ve got something with a flavor to it, why not serve it at room temperature, like you would with a good red wine?
Pale ale is a light beer, close to lager, but not as carbonated. The drink the Brits call ‘bitter’ is a pale ale, to differentiate it from porter or mild, although curiously, often appears dark in color.
At the other end of the scale you’ve got stout, and then people adding even more dense stuff to it, to make it appealing for the festive market. Hence this filling concoction, which makes a thick shake look like mountain spring water by comparison.
A big new drink this year has been alcoholic ginger beer. Lots of bars now stock it next to the popular ciders, which themselves experienced a renaissance a few years ago. It’s not all draught beer and real ale, y’know…
As you can see, there are many different types of nice bottled cider doing the rounds now, not just Magners. And they all have their pros and cons. Cider with added ginger is very nice, for example..
This was, for many years, the popular image of cider in the UK. A plastic vat, of the sort you normally see attached to caravans, filled with a cloudy liquid which, if you drank it in excess, could make you go blind. Very popular in the West Country, scrumpy is the equivalent to moonshine or mountain hooch, a strong drink that may contain ingredients you’d rather not know about.
Ah, one of life’s finer strong drinks. You take a bottle of gin, you add sugar and sloes, which will probably have been picked from the hedgerows in the early fall, and you let the flavor from the fruit infuse the liquid, until you have sloe gin.
Naturally there’s a bit more to it than that, so here’s a recipe, if you’re interested in giving it a go.
Of course, once you get to the stroke of midnight, you’re going to want a decent drink to see in the new year. Which can only mean whiskey. Either a decent Irish malt…
…or a fine old Scottish malt. Cheers! And here’s to a happy and prosperous 2012 for everyone.
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic