Americans tend to poke a lot of fun at the British—the bad teeth, the ghastly cuisine (just what is “toad in the hole,” anyway?), the Queen and warm beer are just a few of the things we like to harp on.
But Americans can also be fools, and their foolishness stems in part from a lack of understanding of British beer. The notion that beer needs to be ice-cold in order to be palatable is due to the fact that so much of our domestic, mass-produced beer is swill, and the colder it is, the less we taste its swillishness. (See Pabst Blue Ribbon review for further details.) Thankfully, the trend here has been toward higher quality beers that actually begin to taste better as they go from “cold” to “cool.” And this has been the paradigm in British beer circles all along. They serve their beer cool. Not warm. Cool.
If you’ve ever been on a genuine British pub-crawl, you probably already know that British beer is in fact, some of the best beer in the world. And yet, with the exception of Bass Ale, how many beers from England readily come to mind? Well, one of my favorite Britbrews that seems to be gaining some recognition in the States is Boddingtons Pub Ale.
Boddingtons has been brewed exclusively in Manchester, England for 200 years, and since 1983 has been owned by Whitbread (a fine beer in its own right). The first time I ordered a “Bodd” I did it without any knowledge of what it would be like. I became a bit impatient as the bartender seemed to take an awful long time to pull the draught. Happily, my patience was rewarded with a stunning pint of deep golden, lightly carbonated ale topped by a very thick and creamy head. It looked almost too beautiful to drink! When I finally snapped out of my “Homer Simpson in the Land of Chocolate” reverie, I was utterly surprised by Boddingtons’ taste and quality.
I had expected something on the thin and bitter side, but what I got is more accurately described as “Vanilla Guinness.” Boddington is rich and creamy and slightly sweet (you can sense a touch of honey as it goes down), and it leaves you with a clean, pleasant aftertaste in your mouth. It’s not a chugging beer, but if you’re like me you may find that your pint never actually leaves your hand until you offer it up for a refill. Bodd is probably enjoyed best by itself—that is, without a full meal—because it is so rich. What’s more, with autumn upon us and the football season in full swing, it’s a perfect beer to help you make the transition from beach sand to bar stool. I suspect it will also make you a better dart player.
I’ve only had Bodd on tap (served cool, of course), but it’s also sold by the four-pack in pressurized pint cans—like its darker cousin Guinness. [Editor’s note: There is a four-pack chilling in my fridge as I type this… ooop!, make that a three-pack. Because the cans use the pressurized gas cartridge system, a great tap-like head and bubbly complexion is insured]. Boddingtons’ web site, featuring product spokescow “Graham Heffer” is also worth a look.
So next time you’re thinking of lampooning the British, consider this: if you lived in a country where such good beer has been the norm for centuries, isn’t it possible that you too might drink yourself to the point where oral hygiene was no longer a priority, toad-in-the-hole could be viewed as “comfort food,” and having a Queen still seemed like a sensible thing?