The summer Olympics are well underway and with the Games, the inevitable media spotlight on the host country's culture. Between the star-studded opening ceremonies and the unprecedented Cultural Olympiad, Great Britain has done its best to take advantage of the attention the Olympics brings. Except, that is, with beer.
In a time when the U.K. should be also showing off its great liquid assets (it is one of the four main brewing countries, after all), it instead chose to sell Olympic Village's alcohol rights to the Dutch brewers Heineken.
So while International IPA Day is being celebrated today by bitter-beer fans around the world, those attending Olympic events in the country that invented the style (India Pale Ale refers to the pale ales sent to British colonies that were hopped for preservation) will have to settle for a typical European lager.
Great Britain missed out on a serious marketing opportunity. If every Olympic-sponsored venue in the country is going to only serve one beer, shouldn't it be one that best represents the motherland of such now-common styles as the pale ale, stout and IPA?
We did some legwork on behalf of the London 2012 Olympic Committee and came up with the 5 British beers we think the Olympic Village should be serving instead of Heineken.
5. Meantime IPA:
Meantime is a great example of a contemporary British craft brewery that -- like many things in the county -- remains steeped in tradition. Founded in 2000 just a few feet east of the Greenwich Meridian in London (and near the stadium currently hosting gymnastics competitions), Meantime specializes in authentic recreations of iconic British styles. Its stout, porters and wheat beers are all based on recipes of yore, but it's the company's India Pale Ale that gets the most credit for historical accuracy. Heavily hopped with mild, British hops (not those citrus-y American kind) and balanced with a full malt profile, Meantime's IPA is delicious without bowing to new interpretations of the style.
4. The Kernel Brewery Motueka Pale Ale:
The Kernel Brewery operates in the same city as Meantime, but brews under the opposite premise, with beers inspired by newer, American-style experiments. The offerings differ depending on what's in season, but the list always includes batches of single-hop IPAs and pale ales, barrel-aged Brown Ales and London-style porters and stouts that are far more bitter than traditional recipes. The Kernel's Motueka single-hop Pale Ale would make a fitting beer for this Olympiad since it's basically the brewed equivalent of London's new stunning-yet-temporary venues. It's also a nice nod to former colony New Zealand, where Motueka hops are grown.
3. Timothy Taylor, Landlord:
Founded in 1858 by its namesake and first owner, Timothy Taylor is one of the few classic British breweries that never made it to the States. Its flagship beer, Landlord, is a pale bitter beer that was first brewed the year of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation and since then has won more awards in its home country than any other beer. Even Madonna has sung its praises, citing it as her "favourite" brew in England. Even though Olympic venues aren't serving this local favorite from the taps, at least Americans have a consolation prize--last month importers Shelton Brothers announced that after 15 years, they have finally convinced Timothy Taylor to export Landlord bottles Stateside.
2. Sam Smith's Organic Lager:
One of the oldest operating breweries in the world, Samuel Smith's has been brewing with the same derivative yeast strain in the same stone vats for the last 250 years. They even keep a small team of Shire horses--a breed that traditionally pulled brewery wagons--to deliver beer around its hometown of Tadcaster. But for all this tradition, Samuel Smith is remarkably modern. All but one of its beers are vegan and the brewery has an entire line of organic ales, which range from its Strawberry Beer to its Pure Brewed Organic Lager. Not too dry and with that perfectly British biscuit aftertaste, Sam Smith's lager sets the standard for Olympic-worthy drinkability.
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1. Brewdog 5AM Saint:
Scottish brewery Brewdog is undoubtedly one of the most adventurous breweries in the world -- saying fuck-all to centuries of Great Britain's mellow beer traditions with interestingly spiced lagers, Islay cask-aged imperial stouts and a 41% "quadruple IPA" called Sink the Bismark (at the time of its creation, the strongest beer in the world). But for all their bombast, Brewdog can still make a solid session beer without the shtick -- the light-in-alcohol, stiff-on-flavor amber ale, 5AM Saint. With eight signature craft beer bars across the British Islands and an Olympic-themed beer called Nevermind the Anabolics (that contains a slew of athletics-banned ingredients), Brewdog would make a fitting beer representative for London's 21st Century coming-out party.