Wine, Beer and Drinks in the UK

<em>Find out about</em><strong> </strong><em>the most popular drinks and their history in the UK; beers, ales, cider and perry, wine, whisky, gin, tea and coffee...</em><strong><em></em></strong>

British drinking culture has always been led by beer. Ale has been plentiful for centuries, and the traditions of the pub have fostered its enduring popularity. While wine has a similarly venerable relationship with the nation, the masses have really only been quaffing since the 1950s. These days Britain imports more wine (by value) than anywhere else in the world (partly because it still struggles to produce its own) and you're almost as likely to see it consumed in homes and pubs as beer.

The Romans probably introduced brewing to Britain but it was the Middle Age monks that monopolised early beer production. They added hops to the mix, developing the taste that diverges from the norm in most beer-drinking countries. Brits brew bitter; they haven't traditionally made much lager (even while the effervescent amber stuff, brewed in Britain with foreign recipes and names, is consumed with relish). Bitter uses the same basic ingredients as lager, albeit with darker malts, but is fermented at a higher temperature using different yeasts. Varying quantities of hops are added to modify the flavour. The common bitter of today, usually served flat and at cellar temperature, is a descendant of pale ale, a light version of the old strong British beer, created in the 19th century to keep colonial types cool in the Raj. Scottish bitter drinkers still sometimes ask for a pint of "heavy", a term of old used to distinguish from a pint of "light" (mild). In Northern Ireland, Guinness is more popular than elsewhere in the UK; although the dry stout isn't brewed in the province itself but to the south, in Dublin.

Extract from Speak the Culture Britain, a Thorogood publication, supported by the British Council Speak the Culture series website / Buy online Copyright ® 2009 Thorogood Publishing