Toast St George With The Best of English Beers
It’s time to celebrate everything that makes England so damn great, from Yorkshire puddings to English breakfast tea. One of the best things about England is the way that we can import things from all over the world, then give them our own unique English spin; just think of the Chicken Tikka Marsala or a fine china tea cup and saucer! St George’s Day beer is an essential ingredient for your St. George’s Day celebrations, but before we get carried away with the beer, a little more on the man himself…
So, we think we know this story; heroic knight slays vicious, fire-breathing dragon. The knight, with his brave steed, draped in the iconic red and white flag saves the girl.
But is that really what happened?
Who was St George?
St George was born in Cappadocia (modern day Turkey) in the 3rd century AD. As with many of these saints, the exact date is unknown. He was a soldier and it is thought that he was an officer in the Roman Army, obviously quite a good one as he rose through the ranks to become a personal guard to the Emperor Diocletian. The image of St George as the dashing knight grew from the chivalric traditions of the 11th century. He was executed for refusing to make a sacrifice in honour of the pagan gods on April 23rd in AD 303.
What About the Dragon?
The story tells us that St George rode into the city of Silene (modern Libya) to save the people from a dragon with a taste for human flesh. The only way to get to the water in Silene was to sacrifice someone to the dragon. Very democratically, the person to be sacrificed was drawn by lots. It just so happened, so the story goes, that it was the princess who drew the short straw on the day St George rode into town (no rolling of eyeballs, please). Some argue that the story was a way to convey the Christian battle between good and evil. Or, it was just a story — remember there was no Netflix back then! However, it came to pass, the story was embellished and popularised during the Middle Ages.
St George became a symbol of virtue and holiness and from the 9th century people began to celebrate his feast day. English kings started to identify with him and the beginnings of his elevation to the patron saint of England can be seen. Edward I (1272-1307) displayed banners bearing the emblem of St George (the now familiar red cross on a white background although the cross was not used to represent England until the reign of Henry VIII. Following the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, St George’s Day became one of the most important feast days in the English calendar.
And the rest, as they say, is history!
Beers of Europe Salutes St George
In our special nod to St George and his many virtues, we have put together a bumper selection of English beers for you to charge your glasses. If you are not an aficionado of English beer, let us introduce you to six breweries and some of their bestsellers.
Located on the edge of Cheddar village, near the famous Cheddar Gorge, Cheddar Ales began its artisan brewing activities in October 2006. With a weekly brewing capacity of around 30,000, handcrafting relatively small volumes ensures that Cheddar Ales can concentrate on the character, consistency and quality that lie at the heart of all their beers.
Cheddar Ales Gorge Best uses an intricate blend of hops to create a distinguished best bitter, providing a clean bitter taste that complements the warm malt flavours perfectly. It is brewed using the best quality Maris Otter and Crystal malts and hopped with a blend of English whole hops.
Cheddar Ales Crown And Glory has been brewed with a blend of English Pale Ale, Crystal and Cara malts with a little bit of added wheat. This has been infused with a concoction of Simcoe, Cascade, Bramling Cross and Savinjski Golding hops, giving the beer a hop nose. Crown and Glory is a medium bodied beer, with a hint of sweetness which balances against the hops, whilst allowing the malt flavours to shine through. This beer is very much in keeping with saluting St George, as it was brewed to help celebrate a momentous summer for England and the UK: celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, supporting the England football team in the European Championships and last, but not least, Team GB in the Olympics.
If you are looking for an award winning premium English beer, look no further. Oakham Ales Bishops Farewell has a structured quality, dominated by elaborate fruity hop notes, with a grainy background and dry finish. It boasts winning several awards, including silver at the 2011 Brewing Industry International Awards, Class 3 for Cask Ale 4.4% — 4.8% ABV.
We also suggest trying Oakham Ales Inferno for a light igniting ale, which flickers complex fruits across your tongue, leaving a dry and fruity bitter finish smothering your thirst. Perfect for quenching a thirst after you have been dealing with a pesky dragon!
For a balanced beer with English aroma hops, try Ridgeway Ivanhoe. This subtle red beer is dominated by neither malt sweetness nor extreme hops. Roast malts, whole English aroma hops and bottling with live yeast are the keys to refreshment and drinkability. Tastes great with cheese.
For something with a bit more edge, Ridgeway Bad King John is neither porter, or stout, but is in fact a black ale. It is a proper English pale with the addition of heavily roasted grains. Only English hops are used (very apt for a St George’s Day brew), some of them later in the boil to leave behind essential oils and hop aroma. It is said that this beer tests the drinkers’ senses…
8 Sail Brewery
8 Sail Brewery are a relative new-comer to the world of brewing, established in 2010. The brewery nestles in the shadow of Heckington Windmill, Britain’s only eight sailed windmill, from which it takes its name.
Pilgrim Pale Ale is a pale, golden ale brewed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers. Its beautiful colour is paired with a moreish malt flavour, underpinned with a gentle hint of citrus from European hops.
Their American style pale ale, 8 Sail Old Colony, has Pale, Cara and Crystal malts to create a pale amber, crisp clean base for the English and American hops to add fruity flavours — hopped with Pilgrim, Columbus and Cascad.
Barsham Pilgrim’s Pale Ale (4% ABV) is a Norfolk Pale Ale brewed with Pilgrim hops, created in collaboration with The Walsingham Shrine. This popular ale is guaranteed to quench the thirst of travellers (and revellers), ancient and modern!
B.O.B. or Barsham Bitter Old Bustard is named after one of England’s finest birds; the Great Bustard – once a regular sight on the fields of East Anglia. It is a heavenly russet coloured best bitter (4.3% ABV) that’s brewed with three of Britain’s finest hop varieties for a perfectly balanced taste. Not only that, it claimed the silver CAMRA award Norwich 2015 and Bronze CAMRA award Norwich 2012.
Burton Bridge Brewery
Burton Bridge Stairway To Heaven is an apt choice for celebrating St George’s Day.
It was originally brewed under licence until 2004 when Burton Bridge obtained the trademark for the name. Stairway to Heaven is a pale beer with a distinctively hoppy aroma. Despite its strength (5.0%), this is a surprisingly smooth and easy drinking beer, that has been brewed with Pale malt and Fuggles and Goldings hops. Soft citrus fruits and zest in the flavour lead to a dry fruit finish.
Burton Bridge Brewery have been brewing award winning beers for many years, and our final recommendation, Burton Bridge Empire Ale, won Guardian Bottled Beer of the Year at the 1997 Great British Beer Festival, and followed this with a runner-up in 1998. Empire Ale is a bottle conditioned beer, very bitter with a strong, hoppy aroma. It is brewed to replicate the India Pale Ales that were brewed in Burton to be sent to the Empire in India many moons ago.
Now you know some of the history surrounding St George’s Day, and we have given you some pointers for stocking up on St George’s Day beer. So, you are all ready to enjoy the big day in style.