England is the largest and most populous country of the United Kingdom. Its inhabitants account for more than 83 percent of the total UK population while its mainland territory occupies most of the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain. England shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west and elsewhere is bordered by the North Sea, Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, Bristol Channel, and the English Channel. The capital is London, the largest urban area in Great Britain, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most, but not all, measures.
England became a unified state in the year 927 and takes its name from the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes who settled there during the 5th and 6th centuries. It has had a significant cultural and legal impact on the wider world being the place of origin of the English language, the Church of England, and English law, which forms the basis of the legal systems of many countries around the world. In addition, England was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution being the first country in the world to become industrialized. It is home to the Royal Society, which laid the foundations of modern experimental science. England was the world's oldest parliamentary democracy and consequently many constitutional, governmental, and legal innovations that had their origin in England have been widely adopted by other nations.
The Kingdom of England (including the Principality of Wales) continued as a separate state until 1 May 1707, when the Acts of Union, putting into effect the terms agreed in the Treaty of Union the previous year, resulted in political union with the Kingdom of Scotland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Beer[edit | edit source]
Unusually, England is one of the very few countries (along with Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) where ales, beers brewed by warm fermentation rather than lagers, have remained dominant among domestic beers. In addition cask conditioned beer rather than bottled beer is still normal, with the beer finishing its maturing in casks in the cellar of the pub rather than at the brewery.
Traditional types of English beer[edit | edit source]
Traditional types of beer include:
Warm beer[edit | edit source]
One common stereotype of the English (and indeed most residents of the British Isles) concerns their love of "warm beer". In reality, English beer is usually served at cellar temperature (between 50°-57°F/10-14°C), which is often carefully controlled in a modern-day pub, although the temperature can naturally fluctuate with the seasons. Proponents of British beer say that it relies on subtler flavors than that of other nations, and these are brought out by serving it at a temperature that would make other beers seem harsh. Where harsher flavors do exist in beer (most notably in those brewed in Yorkshire), these are traditionally mitigated by serving the beer through a hand pump fitted with a sparkler, a device that mixes air with the beer, oxidizing it slightly and softening the flavor.
Cask beer[edit | edit source]
Cask ale is served via a hand pump or by gravity straight from the cask on stillage. Other beers are sold in bottles or drawn from a carbon dioxide-driven tap. Cask ale and bottle conditioned beer is championed by the Campaign for Real Ale under the name real ale.
Regional differences[edit | edit source]
With the growing of hops being characteristic of southern counties, in particular, Kent, traditional southern beers, such as London Pride, south of a line that can be drawn from the Bristol Channel to Wash (on the east coast of England), typically contain more hops than those found north of this line such as Boddingtons.
London[edit | edit source]
London was where porter, a dark beer, was developed. England's first large commercial breweries were founded in London.
Burton upon Trent[edit | edit source]
For centuries, Burton upon Trent has been associated with the brewing industry due to the quality of the local water (from boreholes, not from the River Trent). This comes from the high proportion of dissolved salts in the water, predominantly caused by the gypsum in the surrounding hills. Much of the open land within and around the town is protected from chemical treatment to help preserve this water quality.
The town is still home to five brewers:
- Coors, a brewery from the USA which produces Carling. Coors also brew Bass beer and Stones Bitter under licence from Interbrew
- Marston, Thompson and Evershed plc, now owned by Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries PLC
- Burton Bridge Brewery, founded in 1982 by Geoff Mumford and Bruce Wilkinson.
- Tower Brewery, a new microbrewery
- Cottage Brewery, based in the Old Cottage Inn
In addition, the Bass Museum of Brewing also continues to brew its own beer, separate from Coors.
A by-product of the brewing industry, figuratively and literally, in the presence of the Marmite factory in the town. This in turn generated the production of Bovril. Together with the breweries, this can give the area a distinctive smell.
The development of rail links to Liverpool enabled brewers to export their beer throughout the British Empire. The accidental shipwreck of a cargo boat carrying India Pale Ale (an ale specially brewed to keep during the long sea voyage to India) resulted in barrels being washed ashore. The popularity of these fortuitous samples resulted in the domestic marketing of such ale and began the gradual transformation of English drinking tastes.
Previously, Englishmen had drunk mainly stout and porter - dark beers flavored with roasted barley and similar to Guinness - but bitter (a development of pale ale) came to predominate. This extensively hopped, lighter beer was easier to store and transport, and so favored the growth of larger breweries.
Burton came to dominate this trade, and at its height, one-quarter of all beer sold in Britain was produced here. Although over 30 breweries are recorded in 1880, a process of mergers and buy-outs resulted in three main breweries remaining by 1980: Bass, Ind Coopes, and Marston's. Only Burton Bridge brewery remains as an independent brewer today.
The fame of Burton ales gave rise to the English euphemism "gone for a Burton" meaning to die — a World War II humorous suggestion that a missing comrade had merely nipped out for a beer.
The town's connection with the brewing industry is celebrated by a sculpture of the Burton Cooper, which is now housed in the shopping center.
Burton upon Trent is also known in beer technology circles for the Burton Union recirculating fermenter system, now used only by Marston's Brewery (all other Burton brewers have switched to stainless steel).
Ale-conner[edit | edit source]
An ale-Conner (sometimes aleconner) was an officer appointed yearly at the court-leet of ancient English communities to ensure the goodness and wholesomeness of bread, ale, and beer. There were many different names for this position which varied from place to place: "ale-tasters," gustatores cervisiae, "ale-founders," and "ale-conners". Ale-Conners were also often trusted to ensure that the beer was sold at a fair price. Historically, four ale-Conners were chosen annually by the common-hall of the city.
Ale-Conners were sworn, "to examine and assay the beer and ale, and to take care that they were good and wholesome, and sold at proper prices according to the assize; and also to present all defaults of brewers to the next court-leet."
The tradition was maintained in London into the 20th century. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica reports:
- In London, four ale-conners, whose duty it is to examine the measures used by beer and liquor sellers to guard against fraud, are still chosen annually by the liverymen in common hall assembled on Midsummer Day. Since ale and beer have become excisable commodities the custom of appointing ale-tasters has in most places fallen into disuse.
The title was also used by officers chosen by the liverymen in London to inspect the measures used in the public houses. The title is a sinecure.
Lager[edit | edit source]
Despite the traditional English beer being ale, more than half of the current English market is now lager (Pale Lager which is the same as a German 'helles'). These lighter colored, bottom-fermented beers first started gaining real popularity in England in the latter part of the 20th Century.
Carling (a lager), which is owned by the American/Canadian brewing giant Molson Coors Brewing Company is the highest-selling beer in England and is mainly brewed in Burton upon Trent. Meanwhile, the largest brewery in Britain today, Scottish & Newcastle, which has three main breweries (Manchester, Reading, and Tadcaster), brews Britain's second highest-selling beer which is the lager Foster's.
Other lagers popular in England include Kronenbourg (which also belongs to Scottish & Newcastle) and Stella Artois (which belongs to the Belgian brewery InBev and in England is brewed in South Wales and Samlesbury, near Preston).
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- The Yearbook of the United States Brewers' Association, pg. 260. 
- G. Long, ed. "Ale". The penny cyclopædia. Society for the diffusion of useful knowledge. 1833. p 285.
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