The English are known for their lager swilling antics when they go abroad, but visitors to England will be pleased to meet a different breed of beer drinkers – real ale connoisseurs. Walk into a traditional pub anywhere in the British Isles and you are likely to find a selection of locally brewed ales with the most extraordinary names. Real ale is not like commercial lagers, nor is it a flavour that suits everybody’s tastes, but for the best experience you need to get out of London. Here’s where to find the best real ales in England.
Derby was named by the Lonely Planet as “the best place to drink real ale in the World,” and given there are more traditional pubs in ye olde worldly Derby, it’s hardly surprising the travel gurus opted for that description. Derby is an attractive countryside county dotted with sleepy villages that serve challenging ales that impact on your tastebuds. It’s not unusual to find a micro-brewery out back and an unplugged musician performing live music.
CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, named Lancashire as the location for 2014’s best pint – the oddly titled The Swan With Two Necks in Pendleton. Each year CAMRA host a pub of the year competition which features over 57,000 real-ale pullers. With a clutch of fascinating towns and cities including world-class shopping in Manchester, Lancashire has plenty to offer beer drinkers outside the bars as well as inside.
Northumberland in the most north-easterly corner of England is one of the undiscovered gems in the British Isles and offers plenty of opportunities for curious real ale drinkers to sample the local brews. Made up by a string of sleepy villages, Northumberland retains its old-worldly charm and visitors will have no difficulties finding a traditional alehouse or hotel serving a selection of delicious real ales where you can mingle with friendly locals.
Cumbria is home to the legendary Lake District and stakes a claim as the home of legendary ales. Surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery in England, Cumbria has a host of natural riches, but can also boast a string of award-winning real ales. The 2013 Supreme Champion of Beer was awarded to Coniston no.9 Barley Wine and with over 30 beer festivals hosted in the region every year, Cumbria is a Mecca for beer drinkers.
Nottingham is mostly famed for Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham, but it also has a thriving real ale and live music scene and the stats say there are five women to every male. Another claim to pub fame can be accredited to Nottinghamshire too; it is home to England’s oldest pub, the Olde Trip to Jerusalem was served as the castle’s brew house in the 12th Century.
If you are a lover of micro-breweries and real ales, England is a choice destination to sample some of the finest beers in the world and the quaint English counties dotted with sleepy villages are the best places to find the best real ales.