Autumn in England can be a wonderful time of year. Whilst you are always expecting (or maybe hoping) for sunshine in summer, you are ready for a weather mix as the colours start to change. So thinking about this, here is a selection of beers to try in some English pubs featured in CAMRA's 2016 Good Beer Guide to suit all occasions.
Words: Christine Cryne
I love being by the sea in all seasons so my first choice is a cosy pub in Seahouses, on the Northumberland coast. The last time we stayed in the Olde Ship Inn, we had a bedroom with a bay window with a slight glimpse of the sea. The inn is a nice base for walks along the beach and particularly along the sands to Bamburgh Castle, which is about three and a half miles away. The inn was originally a farmhouse and dates from 1745. There are three bar areas, all full of maritime memorabilia. The most striking bar is probably the front bar and is everything you could expect; cosy and dark and bustling with tourists and locals alike.
Here I'd try a pint of Theakston's Best Bitter, from across the border in Yorkshire. It's gold in colour with plenty of hops and a dash of sweetness that balances the bitterness. Just what you need after a bracing walk.
The Grey Horse Inn in Portland Street, Manchester, is thought to be converted from 19th century weaver cottages. This little one-room Hydes' pub is always friendly (Hydes is one of our few remaining regional Brewers and has been in existence since 1863). Be prepared to share a table if you want to sit down.
The beer, like the welcome, is rarely anything but enticing and a pint of Hydes Light Mild on a cold autumn day after visiting a few of Manchester's museums is a just reward. At 3.5% ABV (Alcohol by volume), it's not strong but provides plenty of flavour with a subtle blend of hops, fruit and malt.
A tour about beer must include a visit to Burton-on-Trent, once the heart of brewing in England. It was here that the famous IPA (Indian Pale Ale) originated and was shipped to various parts of the British Empire; a visit to the Brewery Museum provides lots more stories. The museum also has a modern and pleasant bar, but my first choice has to be The Bridge Inn in front of the Burton Bridge Brewery, set up in 1982.
It's a traditional 17th century multi room pub, with wooden pews in a small side room and wooden panels and beams in the back room. Upstairs is a skittles alley and a dining room. Try the Burton Bridge Porter, dark in colour with chocolate and coffee roasted notes and a little fruit that comes from the hops. A satisfying beer for a cold day.
Known, of course, for Robin Hood and the castle that sits on top of the hill, Nottingham now has developed a reputation for its pubs and local small breweries. The Canalhouse, owned by Nottingham brewer Castle Rock, is a complete contrast to the pubs I’ve mentioned so far. It's a modern space that has taken advantage of an old building, a canal side warehouse. If the weather is nice, sit outside and watch the boats travelling the canal.
One of the more unusual features is the bridge that spans a spur of the canal and extends into the pub. Why not pull up a chair above the narrowboats that are moored in the spur? The beer I'd order here is their Preservation Fine Ale (4.4%). This is a malty best bitter, copper coloured with a bitter character balanced by some sweetness. A beer to linger with.
The Lamb in Lamb Conduit Street, Holborn, really is one of London's iconic pubs. It's Grade II listed and has many features dating back to its Victorian origins. The pub was originally multi-roomed and people chose the bar according to their station in life. A remnant of this is the snob screens above the bar that were used to hide the better off from the lower classes. Look for the polyphon (still working) in the corner. This was the forerunner of the gramophone.
Try the Special, another traditional best bitter (4.5%). It has creamy toffee notes, which balances the bitterness overlaid with a citrus flavour. If it’s warm, take your beer out to the often missed walled garden at the back of pub.
The last pub is another traditional one, the Racehorse Inn in Taunton, and another one owned by a long established regional brewer, St Austell. Taunton's heritage trail takes you close to the Racehorse Inn towards the end of the walk, so it’s a good excuse for some history and then a short detour for a pint.
There’s a large walled garden and three bars, adorned with old tin signs and musical instruments. My favourite area is the small lounge where you can sink into the comfortable armchairs and enjoy a pint of St Austell's Proper Job. This award winning 4.5% golden ale is anything but traditional, using lots of fruity American hops, creating a refreshing but rich experience.
A lovely beer to finish this whirlwind tour of just six of the 4,500+ pubs in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide. If this has whetted your appetite, you can nab a copy via CAMRA's website.
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