Guest ale column: Return to Blighty

Guest ale column: Return to Blighty

Eleven months, 40, 000 miles and 33 states gave the ‘Guest Ale Colum’ opportunity to sample an impressive number of beers and breweries. All good things must come to end though and as August drew to a close, we returned to Blighty, both of us melancholy at the thought of having to leave a life we had come to love and grown strangely accustomed to. I preferred living in a 26 foot box to having a house, more difficult to lose things and it rarely gets messy when you have to pack everything up every few days. Returning to the UK did give us the opportunity to celebrate our return with family and friends and, more importantly, enjoy some proper ale.

We had come to love our visits to breweries; most of the beer excellent, and what’s not to like about enjoying a pint in the sunshine with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop? The Americans also have much more enlightened views on taking your beer away with you. Not only is take away beer significantly cheaper than in the UK, most states will enable you to fill your ‘Growler’ (see previous posts for an explanation of this wonderful invention) for a snip. How does 4 pints for $7 sound?

Sunset with a cheeky blonde in Shenandoah National Park


I thought that the ‘Growler filling station’ had made a welcome appearance in Cambridge when soon after we came home we saw a new bar, ‘Thirst’, advertising growlers. This, however, is the UK and the growler filling station more closely resembles a chemical waste disposal facility than a brewery. The growler needs to be placed in a magnetically sealed and pressurised urn to dispense the beer and my growler is just too big. Had beer suddenly become toxic? Had just pouring liquid into a vessel become just too simple and required some kind of contraption to make it more hipster? No one knows, the only certainty being that the growler remained unfilled.

Our local pub, The Chequers, has long been a reliably good ale house with a number of local guest beers. Popping down one evening shortly after our return I got to appreciate Crafty Beers Carpenters Cask, the kind of malty English bitter that delights with subtle flavours so different to its big, brash American cousins. The beer is still excellent and the pizza, made by a Sicilian who bakes it in an oven in the garden while wearing ski pants throughout the winter, is the best around.

Back for some local brews

We have also had chance to experience the Red Lion in Histon, an exceptional village pub with an extensive range of ales and beers from around Europe. You just need to be careful of the somewhat sensitive and draconian landlord (he is a Grimsby Town fan so that might explain it). The regular ‘Side Pocket for a Toad’ from Tring brewery has to be the best session ale I have ever had. Straw coloured with citrus notes it is extremely easy drinking and at less and 4% you can have a few of them too.

With the micro brewing explosion showing no signs of slowing and some UK breweries like the weird and wonderful ‘Beavertown’ experimenting with American style craft beers it looks like I won’t to miss those big American beers too much. We first heard of Beavertown when we got talking to a brewer at Boneyard Brewing in Bend (good alliteration there). They had worked on a beer called Bloody Notorious as a collaboration and he was impressed that Beavertown got the knack of brewing American style beers but also the irreverent punk aesthetic. You can find Beavertown beers everywhere these days (even in Coventry thanks to Gonzo Beers in Earlsdon) so there is no excuse not to sit out on the patio and admire the mountains, even in Cambridgeshire in October.


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