Last summer I studied abroad in London — although I had a lot of work to do everyday, I always was able to find time to try a new pint at a new pub. So here I put together a list of each one I tried in London.
1. Spitfire – Shepard Neame Ltd, English Pale Ale, 4.5%
Brewed by the oldest brewery in Britain and founded in 1698, you can really taste that pre-Boston Tea Party flavor to it. It has a caramelized color with a big bubbled head but not in a pretty way. The fruity taste stays in your mouth that could go well with a heavier meal like one of England’s liver pies.
2. London Pride – Fuller Smith & Turner PLC, English Pale Ale, 4.7%
If you want a traditionally good English beer, this is the beer you need. Delicious from its fruity and caramel smell to its copper malty finish. Something the Brits would get after a long day of work and savor with friends or co-workers as they stand outside a pub. Yea, you can stand outside pubs with your glass in London.
3. Kronenbourg 1664 – Carlsberg Group (France), Blond, 5.5%
This is a crisp and bubbly beer that you will find bloody refreshing. Don’t let the name trick you though, this beer has only been around since 1952. I mean it would be weird naming a beer by the year you started brewing it, like no one would drink Kronenbourg 2015.
4. Savanna Dry – Distell Group Limited, Premium Cider, 5%
Don’t fancy a beer? Well when you go to Nando’s (the equivalent to something between Steak ‘n Shake and T.G.I. Fridays), make sure you try this South African Cider. Crisp and not too sweet, it tastes like Chardonnay’s southern hemisphere cousin. And when you go to Nando’s, make sure you make it extra Cheeky — it’s a British thing.
5. Doom Bar – Sharp’s Brewery / Cornwall, Amber Ale, 4.3%
This is a flavorful beer that will leave a dry fruity flavor on your tongue and ask you to have another. The time to drink this is during a London autumn while overlooking the fog on the Tames river with your fish and chips.
6. The World’s End Pilsner – The World’s End, Pilsner, unknown
I saw the 2013 film The World’s End and didn’t think it ever was an actual pub. There is a few of them spread out across London, the one I went to was in Camden. When I got there though, I had no idea it was a punk and goth place where people dress up and play metal music really loudly. If you are into that thing or want to see that side of London make sure you check it out. But whatever you do, don’t drink their Pilsner — probably the worst beer I had in London and I had such high hopes.
7. Kaltenberg Hell – Kaltenberg International (Germany), Lager, 4.9%
It pours out a nice golden color with a notable aroma that reminds me of banana, which is something I have never smelled in a beer before. It is surprisingly thicker than it looks, with a buttery flavor to it. The taste will stay on the roof of your month the whole time but that banana smell doesn’t make it to the taste.
8. Alhambra Reserva 1925 – Alhambra (Spain), Strong Pale Lager, 6.4%
Found my way into a secret cat-themed bar under a restaurant called “The Breakfast Club.” If you can find your way there, ask to see the mayor (wink). It comes in this beautiful bottle and pours out much darker than expected. It really tastes like a malt liquor that doesn’t have any bubbles to it. Very good.
9. Young Bitter – Wells and Young’s Ltd, English Bitter (English), 4.5%
As thick as British tea with a splash of milk in it, it goes down easy but isn’t anything to write home to your mum about. Have this beer after you have already had a few at the pub. It doesn’t have a signature taste to it but it goes down very smoothly. Find it at my favorite Pub in London, The Dirty Dick right outside of the Liverpool tube station.
10. Hollows and Fentimans Ginger Beer – Hollows and Fentimans, Ginger Beer, 4%
All the ginger beers I have had in the past have been non-alcoholic so I was worried when I ordered this bottle that it would be the same. I was glad to see that on the bottle it clearly states 4%, but then I was thrown a curveball when my waiter poured it into a glass with ice. It tasted like a non-alcoholic ginger beer — strong ginger that tickles the tongue. If you have had a ginger beer before, alcoholic or not, you have already tasted this.
11. Saigon Export – Saigon Beer Company (Vietnam), American Adjunct Lager, 4.7%
I had this import when I was in a forgettable restaurant in London’s unofficial Little Vietnam. It had a tangy lemon smell to it and a dark and dirty gilded color. It was much dryer than I expected with an aftertaste that stayed in the back of your tongue for an uninvitingly long amount of time after each swallow. Vietnamese beers might not be my favorite but I don’t think I would recommend this one even if they were.
12. John Smith’s – John Smith’s Brewery, English Pale Ale, 3.6%
I enjoyed this with friends one late night in Regents Park. It came in a tall boy can that has a nitrogen ball just like those you will find in a Guinness can. The nitrogen keeps the foam thick and creamy for about half the time you are drinking. It is smooth but the trade off is a the lack of taste. I couldn’t taste the hops or the malty flavor at all, really.
13. Pacifico Clara – Grupo Modelo (Mexico), Pale Lager, 4.5%
Offered in a great Mexican chain only found in the U.K. named Wahaca, you could probably find this in America. But to find it in London, you have to go to these restaurants. It has a sweet delightful smell to it with a pale golden color and a small head. It also has a tangy taste to it that still retains a nice hoppy flavor, but kills it with a metallic after taste that you can only wash out with more of it.
14. Brahma – Companhia Cervejaria Brahma (Brazil), American Adjunct Lager, 4.6%
This one has high carbonation with a light caramel color and a proper head to accompany it. I had this on the south bank of the Tame in a very nice Brazilian restaurant. It has a brass flavor to it but is fresh on your tongue with carbonation. It does well to garnish with a lime. It’s ok, but there are better ways to compliment a nice Brazilian dinner.
15. Summer Lightning – Hop Back Brewery, English Bitter, 5%
The smell is different from most, kind of spicy and citrusy, which is not what I have come to expect from an English bitter. That being said, it wasn’t very good. With the color of apple juice, it has a soft head that disappears before you would like. It is thick but not creamy, and bitter but not tasteful and harsh without ever being rewarding.
16. Portobello Pilsner – Portobello Brewing company, Pilsner, 4.6%
Maybe I got lucky to find this beer when I was in the Old Spitalfields Market in Shorditch, but this was the cheapest beer I found in London. For only £2, I got a bottle of this after work. Nothing too special — it has a wheat and caramel taste to it but really, if you are looking for a cheaper beer to slam back for a nice and cheap price, find this when you are shopping around in the market.
17. Estrella Damm – Damm S.A. (Spain), Pilsner, 5.2%
Estrella (which translates into star in Spanish) is the oldest beer brewed in Barcelona, Spain all the way back to 1876. It is also the most popular beer sold there, but don’t let that trick you. Bud Light is the most popular in America, so put that into perspective. If you are looking for a watered down tasting Bud, this nicely dressed beer is for you.