A pint of British and Irish beer at the pub is a national institution. The pub even though in decline - when compared to 20 years ago - is still synonymous with the British way of life. The availability to buy beer in supermarkets now means much more beer is drunk at home as well. But, what is British beer and why is it still the national drink in the UK and Ireland?
Contrary to what many think British beer is not simply a choice between lager and bitter. In the UK there are more than 2000 beer brands available with many of them brewed in Britain or Ireland. These beers range from crisp, cold, light lagers to dark, rich stouts with an extensive range of styles and tastes in between.
Beer - Britain’s National Drink – Facts, Figures and HistoryBrief History
Beer has been brewed in the UK since before Roman times. The Romans tried to introduce wine during their invasion, the Normans, wine and cider, but the British climate is better suited to cereal crops and the Brits continued with their brewing.
It was brewed in the home, on the farm, taverns and later in monasteries, and until refrigeration, only from September until the spring.
Originally beer was flavored with a variety of herbs and spices with the hop (a major constituent of modern beer) only introduced to the UK in the 15th century.
It was the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th century that changed the brewing of beer from the home to breweries and industrial manufacture. The development of the hydrometer – an instrument to measure the specific gravity (or relative density) of liquids, important in the brewing process – gave the brewer more control of the process.
What is Beer Made From?
Beer is made from 4 main ingredients barley malt, hops, yeast and water. It is the combination of these 4 parts and the skill of the brewer that makes great beer.
Barley is the principal ingredient in beer. The barley is malted before brewing; this starts a process of releasing sugar, which in turn is needed for fermentation during brewing to produce alcohol.
Hops are like the added spice in recipes. The hops are used in small quantities to give beer its distinctive flavor. Hops are also used to produce different styles of beer; adding them early gives bitterness, later for spicy or citrus notes.
Yeast is used to convert the sugars from the barley into alcohol. Yeast also changes the flavor of beer and many brewers have their own strain of yeast to produce their own distinctive beer.
Water is the final and very important ingredient. Breweries always flourished in areas where there was and is good local water. Tadcaster in Yorkshire and Burton on Trent both have good water suitable for brewing ale, while London and Dublin water is ideal for stout and porters.
British and Irish Beer - A Few Facts and Figures
- 26 million pints of beer are drunk every day equating to 99 liters per head per year – compared to 22 liters of wine.
- The UK is the fifth-highest per capita drinking nation in the world (after Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland and Austria).
- 98% of the beer sold in the UK is brewed in the UK, 99% of wine is imported.
Beer is Good for You – in Moderation
Beer has the lowest calorific value for an alcoholic drink
Half a pint of beer, 4.5% ABV - 110 cals
25 ml/ 180 ml Gin and Tonic - 121 cals
175 ml table wine - 175 cals
330ml Bacardi Breezer - 220 cals
They have a lower risk of developing gallstones or late onset diabetes. And beer is a source of dietary silicon, which protects against osteoporosis. This has been shown in many studies throughout the world… more info at British Beer and Pub Association
Facts and Figures courtesy of the British Beer and Pub Association