Friday, 3 June 2011

London Pride

It's been an amazing three weeks, making our way around the globe toward the UK. Now we are finally here, it's time to see what London has to offer.  With so much happening in London, we decided to spend our first week here going to all the typical tourist destinations. Places like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, St. Pauls Cathedral (just to name a few) were at the top of our list. All the places that you see so often on TV are now in front of our eyes. It took us a little while for it to sink in. So after a busy first week of sight seeing, it was time for us to do what we do best, exploring bars and pubs.

Throughout our sight seeing travels, Cara and I had came across many local watering holes. Some of which we popped in for a "cheeky pint", others we just peaked inside for a quick look. One thing was obvious right from the start, the English love their beer, and they love their pubs. It seems like every street in London has a typical English style looking pub. Stained dark wood, dim lighting, little antiques and old photos are the standard features for these pubs. Then comes the beer. Before we came to the UK, we were warned about the possibility of warm beer. Well not exactly 'warm' beer, but beer that is served at room temperature, and in England, that is still usually pretty cold. Every pub that we walked into, there always was a chilled beer option on tap. Beers like Heineken, Stella, Becks etc were the usual suspects, but out of the English beer selection, a range of beers brewed by the Fullers family seemed to be sold in every pub. Fullers beers were always the beers with the massive tap handles and positioned in the centre of the bar for all customers to see. It was almost like every pub was so proud to sell a traditional English beer that it had to have prime position in the bar on display.

So before we delve into the London cocktail scene, we had to get to the bottom of why Fullers beers are so important to English pubs. We decided to go straight to the source, The Fullers Brewery in Chiswick (About 30 minutes out of London). Fuller's is a family owned brewery and has been since 1845. The recipes of the beers are handed down from generation to generation. Members of the Fuller family still work at the brewery today to make sure that the highest standard of beer is still being produced. As we toured the site, our tour guide explained to us that he too had been working for the Fullers family for over 40 years. He shared stories of how, back in the day, it was the only job where his boss insisted that he had a pint before he started his shift for the day. He explained that for all the employees at the brewery, beer was their life. As we learnt more about the Fullers family and their beer, you really got the sense of history and tradition and the passion that they have for producing beer.  I was starting to understand now why the 'Brits' hold this beer in the highest regard. Our guide (as he showed us the countless awards that the brewery has won) was so proud of the company that he worked for. It's always great to see anyone who is passionate about their work, and it's clear that the people at Fullers are extremely passionate about producing good beer.  Fullers biggest seller is a beer they call "London Pride". With a name like that, it's no surprises why it has the reputation it does.

At the end of the tour, came a tasting session. I was looking forward to seeing what makes this beer so good.  As we tasted the Fullers range, one thing was clear, these beers didn't lack flavour. They packed a punch. The beers had very bold flavours. The hops dominated the flavour, followed by a smokey after taste due to it being stored in oak casks (as opposed to kegs). Australian beer generally, has a much lighter taste. It's the type of beer you can guzzle on a hot summers day. The Fullers beer is quite the opposite. It's the type of beer that you need to sip on and appreciate.

Visiting the Fullers Brewery was definitely a worth while experience. It gave us an idea on why this beer is so popular in England. It's history, tradition, it's icon status, not to mention if full, bold, 'hoppy' flavours are some of the reasons why the English love it so much. Since we've been here people have recommended that us Aussie's need to try a 'real' beer. I now understand a little more what they mean. It's an acquired taste though, one that might take me a little while to get used too.

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