By Martyn Cornell
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Extra resources for Amber, Gold & Black: The History of Britain’s Great Beers
The term ‘bitter’ never crossed the Atlantic as the name of a local-brewed beer style, perhaps because it came into being after the time of maximum English immigration to North America, though plenty of brewers in Canada and the New England states brewed pale ales for their customers. It occurs, however, in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, where emigration from Britain was strong during the 1840s and 1850s, a time when the word was coming into use in British pubs. In 1868, in the recently founded town of Newcastle, Natal, William Peel’s Umlaas brewery, a direct ancestor of the later South African Breweries, was selling ‘Pale Bitter Ale’ at 2s a gallon.
Brewers named, and continued to name, the new hoppier drink ‘pale ale’. The London brewer Whitbread listed ‘pale ale, mild ale, stout and Burton’ as the ‘four chief types of beer today’, and many of the beers we think of today as bitters are still called ‘pale ales’ by their makers. Truman, Hanbury and Buxton brewed beers at its Burton upon Trent brewery called PA1 and PA2 for pale ales one and two. The first was its strong Ben Truman bitter, the second its standard bitter. ’s Ram brewery in Wandsworth, South London, closed in 2006, it still sent its ‘ordinary’ bitter out in casks labelled PA for Pale Ale, exactly the same as when it was first brewed in 1864, while casks of its special bitter are marked ‘SPA’.
Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 1949 Mild is Britain’s most misunderstood beer. Originally the main, indeed, the only standard for a beer called mild was that it should be fresh, not more than a couple of weeks old, and have the taste and aroma that come with freshness. Any older, past the point at which the beer starts exhibiting the flavours that come with maturity, and it isn’t mild any more, at least not what brewers would have recognised as mild back in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Amber, Gold & Black: The History of Britain’s Great Beers by Martyn Cornell
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