The Best of British Beer (and Beer Tours) for #BeerDayBritain

Ice Cold in Alex Sylvia Sims Beer Drinking in British Film

It’s British Beer Day (or #BeerDayBritain) today, which means it would be disrespectful not to crack open a bottle of something brewed right here.

If you’ve done the Guinness Tour in Dublin – which I highly recommend, even for those of you daft enough to hate the black stuff – and you’ve been to the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam or the Domus Brewery in Leuven, you might fancy a British equivalent. That’s why all the beers I recommend here come with brewery tour options. Cheers!

Milk Stout by Bristol Beer Factory classic British beer with dark colouring
Keep it simple with the packaging. Credit: Bristol Beer Factory.
British beer in Southville Bristol factory, including ales and stouts made by craft team
Beyond the factory gates, here are some of the varieties you’ll find. Credit: Bristol Beer Factory.

The Craft Beer Success Story: Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout

This creamy milk stout (4.5% ABV) has won more awards than you’ve had hot dinners, and it’s quite a healthy choice, as milk stouts tend to contain Vitamin B6, Niacin and flavonoids (antioxidants). Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout has hints of chocolate, coffee and fruit, and I find it’s a must-have when I’m in Bristol. Awkwardly, I first discovered it during a family wake at the Tobacco Factory, but let’s just gloss over that…

Bristol Beer Factory, based in Southville, is an independent brewery established in 2004. It runs public brewery tours (£15pp) on the last Tuesday of every month, taking visitors behind the scenes and letting them taste the beers. I haven’t yet managed to make a visit coincide with a tour, but it’s on my wish list, especially as my ancestors once ran five different pubs in Bristol in the early-mid 20th century – one, the Coronation, is just a few streets away from here.

Iron Maiden British beer, Trooper, brewed in the UK
Now that’s a dramatic label. Credit: Robinsons.
Robinsons brewery British beer suppliers with Bruce Dickinson Trooper bottles and brewery horses.
The legendary Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden celebrates Trooper’s arrival on the beer market. Credit: Robinsons/

The British Beer that Sings: Robinsons/Iron Maiden Trooper

As an Iron Maiden fan, and someone constantly amazed by the polymath lead singer, Bruce Dickinson (musician, pilot, fencer, film director, presenter, etc.), I had to try the band’s official beer. Dickinson helped craft the flavour of Trooper with British brewery Robinsons, based in Stockport. Robinsons offers brewery tours (£9.95pp; concessions available), including the chance to meet some of Britain’s last remaining brewery shire horses.

Trooper (4.7% ABV) is very easy to drink – it’s an easy golden ale with a zesty flavour, blending three varieties of hops: Bobek, Goldings and Cascade.  The bottle is decorated with the Iron Maiden mascot, Eddie, carrying the Union Jack flag, and the beer itself is named after an Iron Maiden song inspired by the Battle of Balaclava. It’s basically a history lesson in a bottle.

British beer milk stout Jet Black Heart by Scottish company BrewDog in bar background
It’s a yes from me to Jet Black Heart. Credit: BrewDog.
British beer van with blue background and white writing against blue sky
BrewDog champions its independent spirit in every inch of its marketing, right down to the vans. Credit: BrewDog.

The Crowd-Funded Brewery Gem: BrewDog Jet Black Heart

Yes, it’s another milk stout, folks, but this one is Scottish. Roasted malts, flaked oats, aromas of dark fruits and mocha, with a smooth finish, make Jet Black Heart (4.7% ABV) really palatable. BrewDog is a bigger brand name than Bristol Beer Factory, so you can pick up a bottle of this stout in your local Tesco.

BrewDog is based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, and was the world’s first crowd-funded brewery; you can take DogWalk tours (£15pp), including the original brewery, the distillery and the head office. It also runs a chain of bars across the UK: Aberdeen was the first, and Dalston is coming soon. Overseas, you’ll find BrewDog bars in Sweden (four cities, including Malmö), Germany (Berlin), Estonia (the beautiful Tallinn) and Poland (Warsaw).

Proper Job classic British IPA in brown bottle
Classic labelling for this one. Credit: St. Austell Brewery.
St. Austell Brewery and Visitor Centre in Cornwall with brewing experience.
The St. Austell Brewery does Cornwall proud. Credit: Visit Cornwall.

The Very Cornish but Still British Beer: St. Austell Brewery Proper Job

Proper Job (5.5% ABV) uses imported American hops, but its malt comes from Cornish Maris Otter Pale barley. The result is a golden IPA (Indian Pale Ale) that smells a bit like grapefruit but is more bitter and hoppy in flavour. Also, the name is actually a Cornish saying: a ‘proper job’ means you’ve done something well. Like brewed a good beer. Because of the brewing process at St. Austell, all its beers and ales are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. As with BrewDog, you can find them in Tesco stores.

St. Austell Brewery is a bit of a behemoth in Cornwall, as it owns a network of pubs and hotels, as well as its own coffee company, Brewer & Bean, and St. Austell Wines. Plus, a Small Batch Brewery project allows the business to keep experimenting with more unusual beers. The Visitor Centre has guided tours, sampling and an interactive brewing experience (£12pp; concessions available) to try.

If you have any questions about brewery tours, or you’d like to recommend one not on this list, please get in touch.

P.S. The title image for this post is a still from Ice Cold in Alex, a film that’s essentially about craving a cold beer in the desert, only war gets in the way. How very British.

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