Before the First World War a typical British beer was ±6% ABV. Temperance-supporting politicians used the declaration of war as an excuse to diminish beer; the inter-War period brought punitive taxation; the Second World War reduced production once more; and austerity in the 1950s staunched their revival. A few styles survived these predations into the 1960s but only barely. Only now are they showing glimmers of revival.
The essential components of the original IPA (5.5-7.2% ABV) were pale ale malt, English hop varieties and longer-attenuating British ale yeast, bringing a full, rounded character and grassy, herbal notes from the hopping. The single heritage example, Worthington White Shield, is a notoriously phasic beer and British brewers more generally failed to exploit the rising interest in IPAs from the 1990s onwards, but for a few making attempts at the American style. A few larger British breweries still use the letters to describe beers in the style of 20th century light Bitter.
Double Brown (or Strong Ale)
A Double Brown (6.0-8.0% ABV) should be heavy, rich, malty, medium-dark, well-attenuated and enhanced by English hops but lacking the roasted character of Porter, the aged edges of Old Ale and the sweetness of a Scotch Ale. In addition to suffering the indignities imposed on British beer in the 20th century, the style suffered further when the word “Strong” was banned from advertising in the 1960s, unnecessarily slapping down a style that can be a brewing masterpiece. Early editions of Tynt Meadow, the new English Trappist beer, replicate the style.
Britain’s greatest forgotten beer style was championed on old pub mirrors that read, “Bass Pale and Burton Ales”. Pre-dating even IPA. Typically dark amber, fruity, full-flavoured beers (5.5-7.0% ABV), they ducked the assertive hopping of IPA, the caramel of brown ales and the roasted character of stouts, their key traits appearing in nuanced form in Strong Bitter. Their revival is long overdue.
The lead author and curator of The Beer Styles of Europe and beyond is Tim Webb, co-author of The World Atlas of Beer. We welcome all comments on the factual accuracy of these pages. These should be sent to email@example.com.
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