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Somerset’s Amazing Contribution to English Cuisine

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In the list of distinctive and famous English counties, Somerset is one of the most prominent. It stands in an important geographic and cultural position, being the gateway to the counties of Devon and Cornwall and stretching from the edge of Bristol in the north, down to Minehead, which is a popular west country tourist resort on the Irish Sea coast.

The heart of the county was consists of a low-lowing region near the coast, which is surrounded by hills. To the north, are the Mendips and the southern reaches of the Cotswolds; while to the west, you will find Exmoor and the Quantocks – both named as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The county is also known for its long stretches of largely unspoilt, beautiful coastline.

The area was an crucial part of England’s pre-history and there is evidence of prehistoric settlement in many locations, most notably the Mendip Hills. Archaelogists have also uncovered evidence of a remarkable prehistoric lake village that was found in the Glastonbury area.

Somerset played an important role in the Roman occupation of Britain, mainly as a source of lead, but it was also the site of a number of villas in the region, as well as the town of Bath, known as Aquae Sulis, which was built on the site of natural hot springs.

In the post-Roman era, Somerset initially formed a border area between the invading Saxons and the native Britons, but by the 600s, it had become an important part of the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex. Subsequently, the Normans built important castles in the area, including those at Taunton and Dunster, and Bath began to prosper as a key base for the medieval wool trade.

By the 18th and early 19th centuries Bath had become a highly fashionable resort, and tourism was also to the fore in the development of coastal towns such as Weston-super-Mare. At the same time, the county town of Taunton took on a more significant role, thanks to a combination of new railway links and increasing industrialisation.

Quarrying is still crucial to Somerset’s economy, and limestone, sandstone, sand and gravel are all quarried in the region, while there is some peat extraction in the Sedgemoor area. But tourism and agriculture dominate throughout most of the county. Bath, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the resorts along the coast, together with a variety of National Trust properties and mansions attract thousands of visitors every years, a form of trade that is made easier by the M5 motorway.

When it comes to food, Somerset is perhaps best known for its tradition of cider making, but as well as the plentiful orchards, there is a thriving dairy farming and stock raising industry in the county, and Somerset has become known for its traditional food producers and modern artisanal businesses.

Cheddar Cheese

This famous cow’s milk cheese, which is one of the most popular cheeses in England and the wider world, was first created in the Somerset village of Cheddar in the 12th century. Cheddar is a hard cheese that is made using pasteurized cow’s milk, and can be produced in a variety of colours, ranging from white to pale yellow.


When newly made, Cheddar displays a smooth texture, but this gradually becomes more crumbly as the cheese ages and at the same time, the cheese develops a much sharper flavour, which is popular with many English shoppers. According to the ‘father of Cheddar’; cheese maker Joseph Harding, who introduced new techniques for cheese making, true Somerset Cheddar should display a close texture, with a full, fine flavor including a hint of hazelnut, and a melt-in-the-mouth quality.

Bath Harvest Rapeseed Oil

The Romans brought oil seed rape to Britain and the crop has thrived in many areas of the country, not least in the fields near to the city of Bath. Bath Harvest Rapeseed Oil is grown entirely on Wilmington Farm in Somerset, in small batches, and is then cold pressed, before it is double filtered and bottled by hand. The resulting oil provides a rich source of Omega 3 and Vitamin E and the producers, who are part of the Duchy of Cornwall collective, have won multiple awards.

One of the biggest attractions of Bath Harvest Rapeseed Oil is the company’s commitment to a ‘field to fork’ ethos in which the origins of the ingredients is crucial, and the oil is popular with environmentally conscious chefs, cooks and shoppers across the UK. The taste is distinctively nutty, and the oil is extremely versatile, working well in cakes or in frying fish and vegetables.

Muddlewell Cheese

Muddlewell is a popular English cheese that comes from North Wootton, Somerset, and is made at the Wootton Organic Dairy. The inspiration for Muddlewell was the idea of combining creamy flavour with crumbly and dry texture and the result is this remarkable hard cheese, made with a combination of raw Jersey cow’s milk and raw sheep’s milk, which is usually ready between 4 and 8 weeks old.


The cheese has a natural rind, but it offers a texture that is crumbly and creamy and it has intense aromas. The flavours are mild initially, but they develop as the cheese matures, and mature Muddlewell is complex enough to be eaten on its own.

Bath Olivers

These biscuits are a popular accompaniment for cheese and these days can be found on the shelves of most supermarkets throughout England.

They were originally created by Dr William Oliver, an eighteenth-century physician who worked treating the many sick visitors who came to Bath to benefit from the curative properties of the thermal waters. He was also instrumental in establishing the Royal Mineral Water Hospital which looked after less fortunate patients. When Dr Oliver died he left the biscuit recipe, a sack of flour and £100 to his coachman, who subsequently set up a shop in Green Street, Bath, selling the biscuits.

Stawley Cheese

Stawley is an English cheese produced by Caroline and Will Atkinson near Somerset. The cheese is made from raw goat’s milk and has a mold-ripened wrinkly rind. It matures for 4 to 6 weeks, although it can be consumed when it’s just 10 days old.

The aromas are nutty and mushroomy and the texture is smooth, firm, fudgy, and dense. The flavors are herbal, honey-like, sweet, and almost hoppy, although not overwhelmingly. It’s recommended to serve it with honey or English cherries and pair it with a glass of cool Riesling.

Applewood Cheese

Of the array of cheeses to choose from in Somerset, this is one of the most fascinating. Applewood originated in Ilchester and was first produced in 1965. Made from cow’s milk, it is a type of cheddar cheese that has a semi-hard, dense texture along with a natural rind. It is also sometimes known as Applewood Smoked Cheddar, though it is not smoked, but artificially flavored with smoke. It is also dusted with paprika, which helps to give it a distinctive amber colour.

The flavor is both spicy and smoky, and it is ideally served grated over baked potatoes or pasta, but it also works well as an after dinner treat with apples and raisins.

Somerset Salt Marsh Lamb

Salt Marsh Lamb is known as a product of the county of Kent, but it is also found in Somerset. In the area of Bridgwater Bay, flocks of sheep graze on the local salt marshes, producing that distinctively rich salt marsh lamb flavour. Available from June to December, Salt Marsh Lamb has a unique flavour and texture that is the result of the animals grazing on the wild grasses and herbs, such as sea lavender and marsh samphire, that can be found growing on estuary salt marshes.

Ogleshield Cheese

Ogleshield is a popular artisan cheese made in Cadbury, Somerset. The cheese is produced using raw Jersey cow’s milk. Its rind is washed in brine once every three days, which results in a sticky, slightly pungent rind which also softens the taste into a remarkable sweet and fruity combination.

Ogleshield was created by Bill Oglethorpe, who took the original Jersey Shield cheese and added the washing process, affecting the texture, flavor, aroma, and the quality of the rind itself. Ogleshield goes well with a number of dishes, as it offers excellent melting properties.

Sally Lunn Bun

According to legend, a Huguenot refugee called Sally Lunn, arrived in Bath in 1680 and began to work with a baker in the street that was called Lilliput Alley. The legend says that Sally taught the baker how to produce her light, airy, brioche-style bun, and the resulting bun soon became popular at the afternoon teas and public breakfasts that were fashionable in Bath at the time.

The recipe for the Sally Lunn bun is still a closely guarded secret, and even gets a mention in the deeds to Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House and Musuem, one of the oldest buildings in Bath.

Whortleberry Jam

Whortleberry is the West Country name for the wild blueberries that are found across Exmoor and Dartmoor – berries that are known as bilberries in other parts of the country. The berries have a distinctive flavour, that makes for a delightful flavour-packed jam that is tasty spread on a morning slice of toast or with scones and clotted cream.

Food from a Rural Idyll: Famous Shropshire Dishes

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Shropshire is not often considered one of the foremost of English counties, but it has a long, deep history, and is actually one of the largest regions of England, stretching south to Herefordshire and north to Cheshire, and forming the bulk of the border between Wales and England.

Shropshire is first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, but long before that, it is believe that the area was the territory of the Celtic Cornovil tribe at the time of the Roman invasion. Eventually, it was to become part of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia. Long regarded as an agricultural base, the rolling hills, rich pastures and flourishing river-side market towns were also the setting for one of the most important developments in human history: the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

Although that industrial culture eventually shifted eastwards to the Black Country and north to the mining towns and industry of Nottinghamshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire, the industrial heritage of the Coalbrookdale area of Shropshire remains a source of local pride and an attraction for tourists who travel in their thousands every year to see such sights as famous Ironbridge.

Being sandwiched between the heart of England and Wales, Shropshire has always been exposed to a variety of influences, and the busy traffic in goods and travellers along the River Severn has helped to bring other ways of life into the county, although the heritage of Shropshire remains largely rural.

This has led to the establishing and maintenance of a variety of culinary traditions, and Shropshire towns such as Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Much Wenlock and Bridgnorth are thriving culinary centres, where locals and tourists can enjoy a range of food festivals and local produce. Here are six of the most interesting contributions of Shropshire to English cuisine.

Shropshire Pie

Shropshire is a rural country, and that culture has often found ways to make the most of the available wildlife, combining it with pastoral food sources for an interesting and hearty dish. Shropshire pie is a good example. It is a simple shortcrust pastry pie, filled with rabbit and pork, to which are then added balls formed of bacon, herbs, oysters and rabbits’ liver, the whole being backed, seasoned and served with artichoke, for a gamey, meaty treat.

Fidget Pie

Fidget Pie is an extraordinary and distinctive Shropshire contribution to English cuisine that started life 400 years ago as a similar dish to the well known Cornish Pasty. It was originally developed so that farm workers would have a portable lunch to take with them at harvest time.

The pie is made of a pastry case that is then filled with a mixture of gammon, potato, onion, cider, apple and cheese, and it gets its name either from the fact that the ingredients took a while to settle while it was being cooked, or to the distinctive and not entirely pleasant smell that is produced while it is cooking: a ‘fitchett’ being a name for a polecat.

But you shouldn’t let that put you off. Although the Fidget Pie has waxed and waned in popularity over the years, it has become increasingly popular among food connoisseurs, and bakers in Ludlow, Shrewsbury and elsewhere in the county are rediscovering the beauty of this tasty pie.

Market Drayton Gingerbread

The town of Market Drayton has long had an association with gingerbread, that was first documented in 1793 by a local baker. Gingerbread itself has an even longer history, dating back to 1390, when it was known as Gingerbrede. In the early years of the 20th century, this small town had no less than four specialist gingerbread bakers, and rum was widely reputed to be a key ingredient!

This long history of gingerbread expertise means that Market Drayton has a reputation for producing some of the country’s tastiest gingerbread snacks, and no trip to Shropshire is complete without sampling this spicy and delicious local delicacy.

Shrewsbury Biscuits

One of the best known dishes from Shropshire, Shrewsbury Biscuits get their name from the county town of Shrewsbury. They are first mentioned in writing during the 1500s when they were noted for having a brittle and crisp texture, and they also earned a mention in a play by William Congreve in 1700, through the phrase, ‘short as a Shrewsbury cake’.

Tradition has it that the modern version of the biscuit was created by a Mr Palin and to this day, a plaque on a shop close to Shrewsbury Castle indicates that this was the area where Shrewsbury Biscuits were first baked according to Palin’s unique recipe in the year 1760.

The basic Shrewsbury Biscuit recipe is open to plenty of variation, and it can be baked with ingredients including nutmeg, rosewater, cinnamon, lemon, caraway seeds and orange peel, providing a different twist to the basic crisp, buttery biscuit. At one time these biscuits were sold as Palin’s Original Shrewsbury Cakes by a company called Thomas Plimmer and Sons, but these days are widely made by a variety of local and domestic bakers.

Shropshire Soul Cakes

Another Shropshire culinary contribution with a long history, the Soul Cake is associated with the Christian Festival of All Souls Day, the day after Halloween. The tradition associated with this day is that poorer neighbours would offer to pray for the relatives of their richer neighbours in exchange for either money or food. Later the tradition shifted to something like carol singing, in which children would sing and in return would receive a Harcake or Soul Cake.

Like Hot Cross Buns, the Soul Cake is marked with a cross, and the tradition held that each time one of these cakes was eaten, a soul was freed from purgatory. It was also common for Shropshire folk to leave Soul Cakes out on Halloween for the souls of family and friends who had died, with the cakes then distributed among friends and neighbours on the following day. In appearance, the Soul Cake looks like a cross between a scone and a rock cake, and if served with butter or jam, provides a hearty and filling snack for tea time or dessert.

Shrewsbury Simnel Cake

The Simnel Cake is another cake with a long established link to holidays. Traditionally, the cake was baked in the spring, for Mothering Sunday or for Lent. In the case of the Mothering Sunday tradition, the cake was often made by daughters making the cakes for their mothers, usually girls who had been working as servants, who then took the cake home with them when they visited their mother.

The cake itself is essentially a form of light fruit cake, with the addition of saffron, a central layer of marzipan and then a decoration of icing or paste balls to top the cake. Traditionally, the cake was also boiled before being baked, giving it a distinctive taste and texture.

Shropshire Mint Cakes

The Shropshire Mint Cake is one of the more unusual Shropshire delicacies and as a result, it can be tricky to find, but is worth sampling if you can get hold of one. In appearance, it looks a little like an Eccles Cake, being made from flaky pastry with a rich dried-fruit filling. But the addition of fresh local mint gives it a distinctive flavour. It may sound as though these flavours would not go well together, but they make for a pleasing, refreshing take on the traditionally heavy butter pastry and fruit combination and are definitely worth trying if you get a chance while you’re in the county.

Staffordshire’s Culinary Heritage

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Located in the heart of England, the old county of Staffordshire incorporated much of the region of the Midlands that has become known as the Black Country, where the Industrial Revolution became most strongly established. Yet the county has a much longer history.

You can find traces of Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements in the area, most notably in the northeast of the county, where visitors are able to explore a number of fascinating Neolithic burial mounds. Among the most notable Iron Age hill forts in Staffordshire are Castle Ring, based on Cannock Chase and Bury Ring, which is close to Stafford.

Staffordshire was considered a vital region by the Romans who laid roads through the ancient forests that covered most of the county, and the meeting point of two of their most famous roads, Watling Street and Ryknield Street, was later the basis for city of Lichfield.

After the retreat of the Romans from England, the area became important politically as it became the heart of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Mercia, and saw much fighting throughout the 10th and 11th centuries, as first the Anglo Saxons and the invading Danes fought for supremacy, and later when the Anglo Saxons rose up against their Norman occupiers.

But the later history of the county is built around industry. In fact, coal and iron were being mined on the River Trent and in the region of Cannock Chase as early as the thirteenth century, but it was not until the late eighteenth century that the region developed into an industrial powerhouse. This was the period when the pottery industry based in northern Staffordshire rose to considerable fame through the efforts of Josiah Wedgwood, while the brewing industry based in Burton upon Trent also developed rapidly.

Above all, the expanding network of canals and railways led to the development of the southern areas of the county, where coal mining, steel mills and other industrial sectors flourished throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, contributing to the wealth of England. The county has not fared as well since the 1970s, thanks to industrial decline, but has continued to reinvent itself.

Although Staffordshire is best known for its industrial heritage, it remains largely agricultural, with the dairy farming industry being particularly prominent. The north of the county has long been known for the replanting of trees, while the ingenuity and industry of Staffordshire has seen it find new ways to survive. This has included making the most of its heritage, particularly in the Potteries region, but there has also been a renewal of interest in Staffordshire cuisine. The traditional food of this county has something in common with the hearty dishes of other English regions, such as Lancashire, but with an added agricultural flavour.

Staffordshire Oatcakes

The most famous of Staffordshire food exports, the oatcake is a delicacy that has been around for hundreds of years, but while the production of oatcakes is a tradition passed down through the generations in the county, the history of the dish is shrouded in mystery.

The Staffordshire Oatcake is an unassuming product, with an ordinary looking appearance and texture, but it packs a delicious punch. Originally popular among pottery workers, who needed a filling basis for their meals during their long and arduous working days, Staffordshire Oatcakes are an extremely versatile and popular food, that can be eaten on their own or combined with a variety of fillings or toppings, including jam or bacon and cheese.

Beer

The Midlands has long been regarded as one of the best places to brew beer, thanks to the distinctive qualities of the water in that region, which makes it possible to produce some of the best IPAs and milds that you will find. Within the Midlands, the heart of the brewing industry was Burton-on-Trent, which is perfectly situated just an hour’s drive south of the spa town of Buxton, which is famous for its pure drinking water. This town has long been a thriving beer makers paradise, and is home to some of the oldest recognised beers, such as Bass Pale Ale, which was created by William Bass in 1777. Thanks to the beer makers of Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire’s place in the pantheon of great English beer is secure.

Lobby

Life for those who were employed in the pottery industry in the Victorian era was tough, and popular foods of the time were based on the principle of making the most of what was available. This tradition led to the development of a distinctive Staffordshire dish known as Lobby. Made from the leftovers of meals such as Sunday roasts, Lobby was essentially a form of stew, that used cattle or poultry bones for flavour.

As most families could only afford the cheaper offal and cuts of meat available at local butchers, these formed the basis of the stew, and on occasion the dish was also enlivened with a splash of ale. Those who were lucky enough to have a little land of their own on which to grow vegetables, could throw in some fresh carrots or potatoes to add to the mix. Lobby also became popular after the Second World War, when the easing of austerity in the 1950s led to a revival of the dish, this time with the addition of better cuts of beef, Marmite and pearl barley.

Branston Pickle

One of England’s most famous food products, and a staple of the Ploughman’s lunch and of countless packed lunches and picnics, Branston Pickle production started in the east Staffordshire town of Branston, during the 1920s.  

The key ingredient in many a cheddar cheese sandwich or welsh rarebit, Branston Pickle was created in 1922, and consists of a unique mixture of cauliflower, carrots and swedes, all of which are grown locally, and which are further enhanced with the addition of tomatoes and spices, according to a closely guarded secret recipe. The result is one of the most enduring preserves in England.

Groaty Dick

A recipe that was popular in the southern part of Staffordshire, later known as the Black Country, Groaty Dick is a strange but tasty concoction, resembling a savoury porridge. It is made from beef, onions, leek and pinhead oats, along with some fried bacon. The whole mixture is covered with stock and cooked for several hours. It was traditionally served with boiled potatoes or bread and makes for a tasty and filling meal on a cold winter’s day.

Staffordshire Yeomanry Pudding

The Staffordshire Yeomanry was a unit that was originally part of the Queen’s Own Regiment, existing from 1794 until 1973, when it was amalgamated with the Queen’s Own Mercian Yeomanry.

It is believed the recipe for Staffordshire Yeomanry Pudding was first developed at the height of the Boer War, when wives would try to provide a luxurious welcome-home spread for their returning husbands, with as many cakes as they could provide. The Staffordshire Yeomanry Pudding is essentially an egg custard tart, which consists of egg custard layered onto jam, encased within pastry, and it has proven to be a popular dessert throughout the county and nationwide to this day.

Staffordshire Cheese

The region’s strong dairy farming industry has led to the development of many forms of dairy product, and Staffordshire has the distinction of being one of a few English food products that has gained EU protected status, alongside Cornish Pasties and Newcastle Brown Ale.

There is a long and proud tradition of cheese making in the county of Staffordshire, dating back over 700 years, to a time when the moorlands of the north of the county, most notably in the region of Leek, were home to a thriving religious community of monks. Staffordshire Cheese is noted for its pale appearance and creamy texture, as well as a strong, mature flavour, and its unique taste is almost certainly down to the lush moorland habitat on which the local cattle are allowed to graze.

Enjoy the Best of Nottinghamshire

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The East Midlands county of Nottinghamshire has long been considered one of the most important in English folklore, not least because it was the reputed home of the outlaw Robin Hood, but it has also played a vital part in the nation’s industry, economy and ecology.

The county itself is defined to the west by the eastern slope of the huge Pennines mountain chain, with the result that the land slopes generally from west to east. In the shadow of the Pennines, the land was for a long time notable for its extensive coal field. As a result, a scattering of mining towns and railway lines were established in that part of the county, while the central regions, which were once covered by the great forest of Sherwood are made up mainly of woodland and heath, while the eastern part of the county is shaped by the valley of the River Trent and the Vale of Belvoir.

The majority of Nottinghamshire’s modern day population is in the south west of the county, where the city of Nottingham itself and the coalfield areas were once at the very heart of a thriving economy that included steelmaking, mining, engineering and textile operations. Other industrial centres in the county included the towns of Worksop, Mansfield, Ashfield and Newark-on-Trent.

The central regions of the county, by contrast, are relatively lightly populated. The ancient forest of Sherwood was slowly converted into a number of grand estates over the centuries, while the land that had been cleared was used to sculpt grand gardens and imposing mansions such as those that can still be viewed to this day at Wollaton, Newstead and Welbeck.

Agriculture in the centre of the county was hard to maintain, requiring extensive irrigation, but there is plentiful and more fertile land to the east where dairy farming thrives, together with the production of cereal grains, in addition to a thriving sugar beet industry, which is based around Newark.

Archaeologists have found multiple prehistoric settlements in Nottinghamshire. The Romans largely settled in the low-lying eastern part of the county, where they built part of the Fosse Way, one of their most important English roads. Nottinghamshire was later part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, and, following the Danish invasion in the 9th century, Nottingham became part of the Danelaw, becoming one of five Danish boroughs. Later, during the 16th century a number of English dukes were given large swathes of northern Sherwood Forest, building the grand estates that are sometimes known collectively as the Dukeries.

The county was transformed dramatically during the industrial revolution, when coal mining, textile production and other industries developed, although much of that industry has been lost and replaced in the decades since the end of the Second World War. Tourism, to Sherwood Forest in particular, remains an important part of the Nottinghamshire economy, while the county’s agricultural and food producing traditions have remained intact and thrived in recent years as new artisanal producers have flourished, supplementing the traditional food makers of the county.  

Mushy Peas and Mint Sauce

Mushy Peas are a popular food throughout the UK, usually eaten with fish and chips, but Nottingham has its own version on mushy peas, involving mint sauce. This delicious local dish is particularly popular during cold winters and you can find market stalls in the city Nottingham serving it, complete with a small wooden spoon. This dish is prepared using dried marrowfat peas, which were once an ideal source of storable nutrition for poor rural and industrial farm workers. The peas are soaked before being boiled and mint sauce added to make a delicious snack.

HP Sauce

It was once hard to imagine any fridge or food cupboard in England not containing a bottle of HP Sauce. The HP stands for Houses of Parliament, and it is arguably as recognisable an institution as its namesake. This distinctive sauce, which was first made from tomatoes, malt vinegar, tamarind spice and molasses, was invented by grocer Frederick Gibson Garton of Nottingham.

Garton sold the recipe in 1895 to Edwin Moore, who created the Midlands Vinegar Company. Moore had learned that a restaurant close to Parliament was selling the sauce and he had a plan to rename it. The result was a wave of national popularity and the rise of HP sauce to natural popularity, serving as the perfect accompaniment to a bacon sandwich or a plate of fish and chips.

Screech Owl Ale, Castle Rock Brewery

Produced by Castle Rock Brewery in Nottinghamshire, Screech Owl Ale was set up in 2008 as one of a number of beers created to mark the campaign by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust to promote the preservation of endangered species. The beer proved so popular that it was named as the

Society of Independent Brewers (Midlands) Supreme Champion Beer when entered at the Robin Hood Beer Festival, an accolade that was followed by the SIBA National Strong Bitter title along with a bronze Strong Bitter (Champion Beer of Britain) medal in 2013. Screech Owl is a well hopped IPA that is brewed to export strength and is enjoyed throughout England.

Stichelton

The thriving dairy industry in the east of Nottinghamshire has given England a number of enduringly popular cheeses, not least the famous Stilton variety. Stichelton has some similarities to Stilton in that it is an English blue cheese that is made using cow’s milk and animal rennet, but is an exclusively Nottinghamshire creation, and made with raw not pasteurised milk.

Of course, Stilton is a protected brand, so this soft and creamy cheese was given the name Stichelton, which is taken from the Old English word for a style, stichl and tun, which means village. It has a nutty, sweet and spicy taste, along with a rich aroma and is perfect with stout or tawny port.

Shropshire Blue

The name could perhaps confuse you but although since 2010 a version of this cheese has been made in Shropshire, it is in fact a Nottinghamshire creation. It was technically invented in Inverness by a cheesemaker, Andy Williamson, but he had learned his trade in Nottinghamshire.

The cheese was given the name Shropshire as it was considered that this would be more attractive to customers, and it is now widely produced in Nottinghamshire. It is made from pasteurised cow’s milk and takes as long as 12 weeks to age, developing a natural rind that covers the creamy textured, carrot coloured cheese, complete with blue veins and an intense flavour.

Brakeman Best Bitter

Established in 2017 initially to brew Prussia Lager in collaboration with a partner brewery in Kaliningrad on the Lithuanian border, Headstocks Brewery based in Nottingham expanded their range in 2018 to include a range of real ales. The first two real ales to be added to their repertoire were Canary Pale Ale and this beer, Brakeman Best Bitter. It is a warming traditional best bitter that offers a delightfully subtle undertone of caramel and nuts.

Nottinghamshire Sausage

The humble sausage has been part of English culinary tradition for centuries, and some regions of England have created their own types of sausage, including Cumberland and Lincolnshire. Nottinghamshire also has its take on this English classic, invented by a company called the Country Victualler, who use only certified products. It combines two of Nottinghamshire’s most famous ingredients: venison and Bramley apples, with pork and herbs. The result is a deliciously rich, meaty and fruity sausage that is versatile enough for use in a variety of meals or eaten on its own.

Nottinghamshire Batter Pudding

The Bramley cooking apple has long dominated English greengrocers and is used all over England in the baking of everything from baked apples to apple pie, but it has its origins in the Nottinghamshire town of Southwell, around 200 years ago. In fact, it is possible to visit the original Bramley apple tree, which still bears fruit to this day, and the Bramley Apple heritage trail is a popular Southwell tourist destination, as is the Bramley Apple pub in the centre of the town. There is even an annual Bramley Apple Festival, which takes place in October, when visitors can try a variety of appropriate foods including Bramley Apple crumble ice cream or even Bramley Apple martinis.

This versatile cooking fruit has had many uses in food throughout the decades, but one distinctively Nottinghamshire spin on the Bramley Apple is the Batter Pudding. This is produced from a selection of apples, which are cored, and then stuffed with butter, sugar and species, before being cooked in a sweet pudding batter, and then served with cream, custard or ice cream, for a rich treat.  

The Best of English: Dishes that Define Us

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The history of England has helped to shape its unique culture, including the many and varied culinary influences that the nation has been exposed to.

The Romans for instance brought cherries, stinging nettles (which they used as a salad ingredient) cabbages and peas and helped us to improve the cultivation of crops such as corn. They also brought us wine! The Romans were also prolific road builders, and these roads allowed for the first time the easy transportation of produce and food throughout England.

After the decline of the Romans, the Saxons brought their influence to England. They were excellent farmers and cultivated a wide variety of herbs, which were not used simply for flavour as they are today but were used as a handy way of bulking out stews.

The Saxons were not the only invaders to come to these islands in the millennium following the departure of the Romans. The Vikings and Danes brought with them their techniques for smoking and drying fish, and smoked fish soon became a feature of the English diet, particularly in the North East.

While these invaders all left their mark, none represented the sort of culture shock associated with the arrival of the Normans. Norman culture was drastically at odds with the Saxon land they conquered, and that included their eating habits. They encouraged the drinking of wine and their preference for Latin and French over Old English led to the development of names for some common foods, such as mutton – originally mouton and beef (boeuf) for example.

Perhaps the biggest influence on English cuisines has been our interaction with the world beyond these shores. In the 12th century the Crusaders were the first people from England to taste oranges and lemons, which they were able to eat while in Jaffa in 1191-2.

The long history of trade with Europe and the wider world goes back much further than that. Saffron was first introduced into Cornwall by the Phoenicians at a time when the British Isles were a popular destination for those looking to obtain tin. Derived from the dried and powdered stigmas of the saffron crocus, saffron is still used today in English cooking.

The importation of valuable spices and dried fruits from Asia enabled wealthy English people in the Middle Ages to enjoy a diet that was far more sophisticated than that of the poor. By the 1500s, spices from the Far East were being supplemented by sugar from the Caribbean, coffee and cocoa from South America and tea from India, while potatoes from America began to be widely grown. All of these new foods had an effect on the English diet.

Turkeys from the Americas also came to England and were bred almost exclusively in Norfolk up until the 20th century. In the 17th century, flocks of turkeys were driven from Norfolk to the London markets to be sold in the busy markets of the capital.

By the 1800s, the growth of the British empire was exposing English people to a range of new flavours. For example, Kedgeree is a version of the Indian dish Khichri and was first brought back to Britain by members of the East India Company, quickly becoming a popular dish at the English breakfast table, a status it has enjoyed ever since.

Thanks to all these influences, and trends of migration and trade, it is now possible for English diners to sample cuisines from all around the world, reflecting the ethnic diversity of England. Just like England itself, English food has continued to evolve and develop, and the most famous English dishes are a reflection of that unique and remarkable history:

Bedfordshire Clangar

There are many foods in England named after their locality of origin and the Bedfordshire Clangar is one of them that deserves more attention. Originating in the county of Bedfordshire, the clanger is an elongated, suet dumpling, resembling a kind of pasty, but with a twist. At one end of the pastry is a savoury filling but the other end contains a sweet ingredient. Typically the savoury end is filled with pork and vegetables, while the opposite end is sugary or filled with sweetened berries. The pastry on the top of the clanger is often scored or marked.

Historically, wives made the Bedfordshire Clanger for their husbands to take as a midday meal into their agricultural work. As with many English pastry-dishes, the crust was not originally designed to be consumed, but was intended to protect the fillings from the workers ‘ soiled hands, though over the years, this evolved to the point where the whole clanger was edible.

Scotch Egg

There is some controversy over the creation of the Scotch Egg. The Fortnum and Mason department store in London claims credit for inventing it in 1738 but there is also some evidence that it may have been influenced by the Mughlai soup, Nargisi kofta, which is popular in India. We know for sure that this dish, made up of a whole boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and breadcrumbs was eaten in 1809, based on recipe evidence. Originally served hot, with gravy, these days it is enjoyed cold and is a regular feature on English picnics.

Toad in the Hole

An unusually-named dish that does not contain any amphibians! Toad in the hole is a famous piece of English cuisine, consisting of sausages cooked in a savoury batter. The recipe dates back to the early 18th century and at that time it was made from leftover meat. Although this dish has humble beginnings, it was rumoured to be a favourite of Queen Victoria, and remains a popular royal dish, as Pippa Middleton, the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge is supposedly a fan.  

Jellied Eel

This English dish has long been associated with London’s East End and is made of eels which are first boiled in a spice stock before being left to cool into a jelly. It is an unusual delicacy, eaten cold, and was popular among poor Londoners in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, largely because eels were so readily available in the River Thames, and were a plentiful source of protein and nutrition. The first record of an eel, ham, and mash shop is in the early 18th century, while the oldest surviving shop in Walthamstow was established in 1902.

Jam Roly-poly

England is known for its comforting desserts and this particular dish was a regular feature of family diets in England for many decades. The name derives from the fact that the suet pastry is first rolled out, then covered in strawberry jam, and then rolled up again before it is steamed or baked. The pudding is also sometimes known as ‘coat sleeve pudding’ because at one time it was both steamed and served in a shirtsleeve, though fortunately this method has long been abandoned!

Stargazy Pie

This dish came from a Cornwall village and can be traced back to the 16th century. Legend has it that a local trawlerman braved the stormy seas off the Cornish coast to save the villagers, who relied on a diet of fish, from starvation. The fish that he caught were baked in one enormous pie for all of the villagers to share, and the heads poking out of the pastry were there to remind the starving villagers there was fish in the pie. This traditional dish is still made today and there is a theory that the natural oils secreted by the fish heads during cooking add considerably to the distinctive taste.

Shepherds Pie/Cottage Pie

A hearty English dish that comes in two main varieties, with the difference depending on which meat is used. In Shepherd’s Pie, the preferred meat is lamb whilst in Cottage Pie it is beef. And to confuse non-English food lovers even more, neither of these dishes are pies! In fact, this dish consists of minced meat with vegetables, in a rich sauce, topped with mashed potatoes.

Pease Pudding

Despite the name, pease pudding, which is sometimes called pease porridge, is a savoury dish, not a dessert. It is made from boiled peas, usually split yellow peas, to which spices are added and is often served alongside a joint of bacon or ham. Popular throughout the North East of England, it is eaten elsewhere in England, and has become a firm favourite of food lovers in Canada.

Black Pudding

Black pudding is a sausage that is made largely from blood and long served as part of a typical English breakfast. Because of its ingredients, which feature blood, oatmeal, and lard congealed pigs, the dish is a major source of protein and a firm favourite with many English people. The origins of the dish are widely debated and some say that the dish came from Scotland, though butchers in the Lancashire town of Bury dispute this, claiming that it was sold there as far back as 1810. These days it is served widely with breakfasts throughout the north of England.

Eton Mess

The names of some English foods are not always what they seem, but in this case, the name is an accurate indicator of origins. This most famous of English desserts was first served up at Eton College in the 1930s, reputedly as the result of a happy accident. It features strawberries, broken up meringue and cream, and soon became popular among pupils at the private school, where it was traditionally served as an annual treat at the cricket match between Eton and rival school Harrow.

Enjoy East Anglia’s Golden Beer Tradition

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England has one of the world’s most distinctive beer and brewing traditions and each part of the country has made its own contribution to our beer heritage. Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire are globally renowned as a beer brewing centre, and the London brewing industry has also made a big impression with beer drinkers around the world.

But another region of the UK has a beer history to match anything you can find in Bermondsey or Burton. East Anglia, the easternmost region of England, has a long standing record of beer excellence that, according to some recent evidence, could go back over 2,000 years.

Workers on a £1.5 billion road upgrade in Cambridgeshire in 2019 discovered evidence of beer making that could date from the Iron Age. Evidence of beer residues were found alongside bread and porridge fragments, which confirmed theories that the history of beer brewing in England goes back long before the arrival of the Romans.

It is believed that ancient populations in the area used the beer making process to purify their water, which often contained impurities, to produce a safe source of hydration. East Anglia is an ideal part of the country to support a beer-making industry due to the quality of the barley in the area, which is known as maritime barley and much prized by beer makers around the world.

Historians have shown that when the Romans came to Britain, they discovered the local tribes brewed a beer that was known as curmi. It is thought that this beer version was produced from grain, as hopes was not in use in Britain until the end of the Middle Ages, but the grain was balanced with herbs and spices to reduce the dominance of the grain’s sweet flavour.

Norfolk, which is East Anglia’s most recognizable county, is particularly well known for its beer industry, thanks to the ideal combination of soil type and maritime climate, which produces the high quality malt barley. As a result, the county boasts more than 50 breweries, making it one of the top three beer making regions in the country. The county is full of a pubs, ranging from country inns to coastal hostelries, and the tradition of beer making is represented by a host of malting and beer brewing buildings.

Up until the Second World War, the number of brewers in Norfolk had numbered well over a hundred, and centuries of tradition had produced a remarkable diversity and richness of beer making tradition. The consolidation process in the beer industry in the second half of the twentieth century led to the end of almost all these independent producers and by the 1980s, there was only one Norfolk brewery remaining.

Fortunately that changed around the time of the millennium, as the new wave of artisanal beer makers began to establish themselves, enabling beer drinkers to rediscover the fascinating diversity of flavours that are possible with East Anglian beer. Today the region’s beer brewing sector is thriving once again and for those who are interested in exploring what this unique part of England has to offer, here are some of the best East Anglian beers you can sample in 2021:

Summer Daze – Panther Brewery

Panther Brewery is based in Reepham, Norfolk and was established in 2010, following the closure of the local brewery. Those premises were taken over and the Panther brand created, its name coming from the stories of local tales describing Panther sightings in the countryside. ,

Panther Brewery use locally sourced Norfolk water which they believe helps add an extra depth and softens the palate, which is particularly suitable for their dark beers such as our award winning Black Panther. They also use malt from local sources, as part of their commitment to create a sustainable local business. Summer Daze is one of their best sellers, offering a light malt profile and juicy hop flavour. It is packed with Mosaic, Amarillo and Motueka hops which help to give the beer a tropical fruit and zesty lime character, producing a true thirst quencher.

Moon Gazer Golden – Norfolk Brewhouse

The Norfolk Brewhouse is one of East Anglia’s newest breweries, having set up operations in February 2012, after the completion of a conversion of a barn into a modern brewhouse.

The quality of water used is crucial in the brewing process, and the Norfolk Brewhouse is unusual in that it is able to use water from its own borehole, drawn from 190ft from beneath its floor. This water passes through a large chalk seam which makes it perfect for brewing.

They also take advantage of the local barley crop, using Maris Otter, which is the premium brewing barley grown in abundance in East Anglia. This barley imparts a great flavour base to the beers, and it is supplemented by malt from Crisp Maltings just a few miles down the road. Moon Gazer Golden is the Norfolk Brewhouse’s most popular brand, a light and refreshing drink that is versatile enough to be drunk on its own or with an al fresco dinner on a summer’s evening.  

Yetman’s Yellow – Yetman’s Brewery

Yetman’s Brewery is one of a number of East Anglia breweries that started out as a kitchen table operation. Following early experiments in the 1980s, the brewery launched in 2005, and for a time, provided beer to the family restaurant based in Holt, though now the focus is entirely on the production of fine East Anglian beer.

In creating their popular beer, Yetman’s emphasise the importance of the malting. The basic Maris Otter barley is sent to Warminster in Wiltshire to be malted by hand, at the oldest floor maltings in the country. From this high quality base, the brewing process is able to develop a small but premium range of beers, including the distinctive Yetman’s Yellow, a light, crisp and refreshing pint.

Organic Best – St Peter’s Brewery

St Peter’s Brewery is based in Bungay, a market town in the Waveney Valley, Suffolk. It is another golden classic in the East Anglian style, but this time employing strictly organic malted barley, which is supplemented with organic hops for the unique character. This delightful summer drink goes perfectly with many dishes, but it is ideal as an accompaniment to a selection of cured or smoke meats or with a traditional countryside picnic.

Golden Newt – Elgoods

In a region that is full of new artisanal breweries, there are still some olde establishments that are flying the flag for East Anglian beer tradition. Set up more than 200 years ago in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, and run by the Elgood family since 1878, the brewery produces a range of fine ales throughout the year. Golden Newt, with its prominent citrus and roasted nut character, is named after the colony of Great Crested Newts that reside in the brewery garden lake. This delicious beer goes well with many foods, particularly the traditional favourite, fish and chips.

Broadside – Adnams

As well as its range of golden summer-friendly beers, East Anglia can also boast plenty of rich and full bodied beers, and Adnams produce some of the finest, such as their popular Broadside brand. This dark-ruby red style of beer is brewed in the Suffolk coastal resort of Southwold and is packed with strawberry jam aromas and fruit cake richness. In fact, it is so rich that it makes an ideal ale to use in certain dishes, particularly when cooking with beef.

Founded in 1872 by George and Ernest Adnams, this brewery is one of the oldest and most respected names in the English beer industry, and in recent years, Adnams has become a popular destination for visitors and tourists, thanks to the Copper House distillery, unveiled in 2010.

Oakham Citra – Oakham Ales

The cathedral city of Peterborough is a popular destination for many tourists and it is also home to one of the most notable breweries in East Anglia. One the site of the old labour exchange on Westgate, Peterborough, there is a pub called the The Brewery Tap, which is home to the highly renowned micro-brewery called Oakham Ales.

Oakham produce a number of memorable beers, and one of their most popular is Oakham Citra, which uses the hops varieties of the same name. Bursting with lychee, grapefruit and gooseberry aromas, it is a delicious beer and the perfect foil for Thai food or spicy tacos.

More Than Cider: The Pick of West Country Beer

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The West Country area of England is best known for the quality of its cider, which has earned global fame, and while it is true that counties such as Somerset have always been associated with the golden nectar produced from English apples, the West Country as a whole also has a proud tradition of beer making, that has received a new boost with the rise of the artisanal beer sector.

In fact, some of the towns in this part of the world have beer making traditions that can rival the likes of Burton and Masham for their links with beer production.

St Austell, in Cornwall, often described as the heart of the Cornish Riviera, is one example of a thriving beer making town in this part of the world. An old market town that was first put on the map by the discovery of China clay in the surrounding countryside, it has also become famous for the nearby Eden Project, which attracts thousands of tourists every year. But St Austell is also home to the St Austell Brewery, which holds the distinction of being Cornwall’s oldest family brewery, where beer has been brewed on the same site for more than 100 years.

Another West Country county, Wiltshire is home to two towns with strong beer making heritages. Devizes is a thriving market town that offers a wealth of historical and architectural interest, and the Wadworth Brewery rates as one of its main attractions. Cricklade, in north Wiltshire, is another example of old beer marking tradition, featuring a pub, the Red Lion Inn, that dates back to the 1600s, and which now produces its own range of in-house beers.

Not only does the West Country boast a proud beer making tradition, but it has also been prominent in the rise of artisanal brewing over the last 20 years. Cornwall has been one of the most renowned beer producers, thanks to brewers such as Sharp’s, whose Doom Bar bitter has won national fame. St Austell, Skinners, Keltek, Harbour, Black Flag and Firebrand are just some of the new beer names that have been putting Cornwall on the map.

But while Cornwall has grabbed the headlines, the rest of the West Country has not been left behind. Devon offers a number of high quality brewers, including Dartmoor, Hunter’s and Otter, along with a host of microbreweries, while Dorset and Wiltshire are home to a mix of long established and up-and-coming breweries that are successful combining modernity and tradition.

Clearly, there is more to the West Country than cider, scones and beaches! To help you explore the world of West Country beer, here are ten of the best local beers to sample:

West Coast Session IPA – Firebrand

Session IPA is a style that is much in demand, and it is a popular one with brewers as it gives them the chance to utilize its preferred hops without creating beers that are too intimidating for the modern drinker. Based in Launceston, Firebrand are one of the finest proponents of this style and their West Coast Session IPA, produced with Mosaic and Equinox hops, is full of fruit, providing a flavour of lime and other tropical hints, along with a powerful burst of bitterness.

Tally Ho! – Palmers

This is a full-bodied, chestnut-brown beer that was first created in 1949 and offers a maturity of flavour that make it one of the most notable examples of the so-called ‘old ale’ style. This is a complex and rewarding beer, offering an array of flavours, including oak, dried fruits, caramel and festive spice, thanks to the abundance of rich, roasted malts that also help to provide a rich, boozy quality, and there is a pleasing piercing bitterness with a dash of pepper.

Avocet – Exeter Brewery

This is the perfect beer for anyone who is looking for a change from strong hop-heavy beers. It’s a very pale golden ale, which offers light touches of lemon and honey along with the refreshing qualities of a dry, subtle bitterness. A light and simple beer, produced entirely from organic ingredients, Avocet is a rare delight and one that can be appreciate by all beer drinkers.

Eureka – St Austell

St Austell has been one of the leading lights of the West Country beer scene for years, thanks to the success of beers such as Tribute and Proper Job, and this is another of their success stories. It began life as one their small batch series of experimental brews, but has developed into one of their main products. It features the new Eureka hop, which provides abundant citrus, currant and herb flavours to supplement the amber malt body.

Headband – Verdant

One of the newer stars in the Cornwall beer making firmament, Verdant has earned an impressive reputation and this striking product, supplied in a bright, almost psychedelic can, is a good representation of their style. This is a modern American Pale Ale, packed with pineapple and mango hop flavours, along with a grassy bitterness and a sweet touch to the malt base helps to accentuate the delicious fruitiness.

Otter Ale – Otter Brewery

This Devon brew may not seem as modern as some of the new style beers that have dominated the modern market, but this brown English bitter has a delightful easy going charm. It is slightly sweet, with a toasty edge and a deep, fruity malt flavour. Grain leads the way rather than hops and the result is an earthy, rustic bitterness that provides a well rounded and satisfying drink.

Nettle IPA – Gyle 59

Gyle 59 is one of Dorset’s best brewers. Their range of beers is exceptional, combining tradition with innovation, but are less well-known the further north you travel. This nettle IPA is one of its more unusual products. It is a light, crisp IPA with the hoppy bitterness leaning towards a pine and herbal flavour. Adding nettle tips to the brewing process provides an unusual twist, and while the nettle flavour isn’t obvious, the taste of this fascinating beer is distinctive.

American Adventure – Badger Beers

Produced by Hall and Woodhouse, a family business with a few hundred years of brewing under its belt the range of Badger beers are brewed along traditional lines. This beer has a familiarly sweet, bready grain and peachy fragrance that is common to many of their lighter beers and is a good example of the brewery embracing contemporary beer trends thanks to more dominant hopping from US varieties that produce juicy orange and spicy bitterness while maintaining familiar Badger flavours. Overall, this is a great mix of tradition and the new beer world.

Session IPA – Harbour

Harbour is another Cornish brewery with a growing nationwide reputation thanks to its exciting range of modern ales, many of which are bold flavoured limited editions. This Session IPA is one of their gentler beers, offering a fresh hop taste but with less intensity than many of its contemporaries. There is only moderate bitterness and zingy grapefruit flavour that presents a subtle rather than overpowering experience, and this well made beer has wide appeal.

Pennycomequick – Skinners

Launched in 1997, Skinners has become one of the most popular of modern West Country brewers, partly thanks to its innovative promotions and well designed packaging. Based in Truro, they have made a mark with the hugely popular bitters Cornish Knocker and Betty Stogs, but they have plenty of other beers to offer, including this dark stout. It’s not a thick and heavy stout in the traditional mould, but more of a dark roasted ale that provides a sweet toffee and coffee flavour. There is also a pleasing fruitiness and a low bitterness leading to a smoky dry finish.

The Beers of Yorkshire

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Yorkshire is the largest of the English counties, and few parts of the country are more patriotic when it comes to celebrating their regional heritage.

For Yorkshire folk, that pride in their county extends to the food and drink it produces, including their beer, which leads the way in the thriving English artisanal beer scene. In fact, if you ask any Yorkshire native where the best beer comes from, and they won’t hesitate in pointing out that the greatest ales, stouts and IPAs can be found in ‘God’s own county’!

The history of English beer goes back many centuries, but there are few counties in the UK where the brewing industry has had such a strong influence as in Yorkshire. Indeed, several towns in Yorkshire are associated with brewing. For example, the market town of Tadcaster in North Yorkshire is the home to three thriving breweries: John Smith’s, Samuel Smith’s and Molson Coors Tower Brewery, and the town is often filled with the familiar, hoppy smell of brewing.

Of those three Tadcaster breweries, Samuel Smith’s is the most remarkable. Founded in 1758, it has the distinction of being the oldest brewery in Yorkshire and it still employs traditional methods to produce its beer, including the use of a number of Grey Shire horses that are used to deliver beer to pubs in and around the town.

Another small market town in North Yorkshire, Masham, is also closely associated with beer making and has the distinction of hosting two internationally known breweries: Theakstons and Black Sheep Brewery. These breweries are actually run by various members of the same family and in fact the Black Sheep name hints at the story of a family feud. The name also refers to the town’s major sheep market which developed due to the large flocks of sheep at nearby Jervaulx and Fountains Abbeys.

Theakston’s ‘Old Peculiar’ is one of the UK’s favourite ales and earned its name thanks to a quirk of English history. During the medieval period, the Archbishop of York designated the parish of Masham to be a ‘Peculier’ which meant that it was able to govern its own affairs, a decision that may have been made so that officials could avoid the dangerous journey up to Masham.

Yorkshire’s historical heritage is also entwined with the county’s beer making industry. Many Yorkshire brewers reference this heritage through their decorative beer labels. For instance, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of the world famous landscape designer Lancelot Capability Brown, Great Newsome Brewery in East Yorkshire brewed ‘Incapability Brown Ale’.

Albyn Works in Sheffield was once the base of famous silversmith Joseph Pickering & Sons. As an offshoot to their main metal polishing products business, the company developed a substance called ‘Blanco’ that was later used by the British Army to whiten their uniform. In recognition of this, the Sheffield Brewery Company, which currently occupies Albyn Works created a distinctive beer called ‘Blanco Blond’.

This trend of brewing companies setting up in old industrial buildings is another distinctive part of Yorkshire brewing culture. Another find example is the case of Northern Monk Brewery, which set up in the Grade II listed Marshall’s Old Flax Store building, that once served the nearby textile mills in one of the busiest heartlands of the industrial revolution.

Like the rest of England, Yorkshire has seen a resurgence of new beer makers during the last 20 years, as the artisanal beer sector has taken off. This new beer industry is helping to drive the success of the wider English beer making sector, so to help guide you through the range of available Yorkshire beers, here’s ten of the best to sample:

Rapture – Magic Rock

Magic Rock, based in Huddersfield, is known for the quality of its range of ales. It has a reputation for highly hopped beers, and for this popular red ale, the six varieties of hops are blended with five types of malt. The result is a rich and complex mixture of soft, grainy flavours, including fruit, dough and toasty caramel, along with pine and orange hoppiness to add brightness and a long dry finish that is sure to satisfy even the most demanding beer aficionados.

Cascadian Dark Ale – Bad Seed Brewery

The Bad Seed Brewery, based in Malton, produces a variety of fine and flavoursome beers, but this experimental ale is one of their best. A hoppy production, it pours with a fine head of froth but underneath that surface, there is a dark and intense liquid that packs in a range of flavours from piney hops and dank malt and even a scent of vanilla. With a sharp and memorable bite, this is one dark ale that you won’t soon forget.  

India – Hop Studio

This popular IPA can best be described as a golden Yorkshire bitter that has been given an American makeover. It combines the full range of modern hop flavours, backed by a distinctively British body  of malt and yeast. The four hops employed here: Cascade, Centennial, Columbus and Chinook provide fruity and bitter flavours, with a particularly distinctive grapefruit taste, along with some pleasing grassiness at the finish. Combining modern hop bitterness, with the traditional flavours of the county, this is a perfect blend of the old and the new.

Riggwelter – Black Sheep

Riggwelter is a traditional Yorkshire ale that presents with a strong, dark-hued brew, and offers a variety of flavours, including espresso, liquorice and the hint of ripe banana. It is a delightfully dark beer, offering a rich, creamy head, which smells of sweet malty molasses with a long, dry, refreshing finish. The name Riggwelter refers to a pregnant sheep that has become marooned on its back, legs in the air, and local farmers and walkers have become used to restoring them to an upright position.

Notorious F.I.G. – Ilkley Brewery

Ilkley Brewery has the reputation of being one of the UK’s best beer companies, producing a fascinating variety of beer styles. Among their fascinating range is Rombald, a tangy citrus American Amber ale and white chocolate stout Westwood. Notorious F.I.G. is a Belgian-style dubbel that has been infused with figs. It has a subtle, mature sourness along with a very rich fruity flavour. Along with the fig flavour, there’s also a brown-sugar sweetness with a slightly chalky dry finish that comes with a hint of roasted coffee. A remarkable beer that adds to the impressive Ilkley reputation.

Triple Chocaholic – Saltaire

This multiple-award winning Triple Chocaholic is an easy-drinking stout that has toasty qualities without being overly dry-roasted, along with a bitterness that is not too harsh on the palate and a smooth and creamy texture. Most impressively of all, it’s full of chocolate flavours imparted from both the malt brewing process and the addition of real chocolate. Neither too sweet nor too dry, this is one of the best examples of the winning combination of beer and chocolate.

Pinata – North Brewing Company

The trend for ales that are loaded with fruit has reached Yorkshire, and Leeds-based North Brewing Company has produced a fine example, building on the success of Volta, its fine blood orange and rhubarb sour beer. Pinata is a fascinating mango and guava pale ale, but although those tropical flavours are immediately apparent, this drink is more complex than you might think, as there is a pleasing punchy hop bitterness beneath the exotic fruit flavours.

Bad Kitty – Brass Castle

Brass Castle are another Malton-based brewery, and their approach of shunning filtration enables them to produce characterful, flavour-packed beers. Bad Kitty is a prime example: a powerful vanilla porter that offers a smooth texture. It makes for a fine drink to enjoy by the fireside, but is also great straight from the fridge to go with a meaty summertime BBQ feast.

Eternal – Northern Monk

Northern Monk has produced a crowd-pleasing classic in Eternal, a modern session IPA that ticks all the right boxes. It’s a light looking beer that is packed with modern hop power, along with pithy citrus bitterness and a long finish. A great post-work thirst quencher.

Landlord – Timothy Taylor’s

At one time, Landlord was a dominant factor in international and national beer awards, helping to promote both Yorkshire and the UK’s position as a brewing powerhouse. Competition may be tougher these days, but this is still a highly sought-after beer. It’s a pale ale with a faintly sweet, malty base and is brewed using three hops: Styrian Goldings, Goldings and Fuggles, which give it a flowery, berry edge, along with satisfying levels of bitterness and a lovely dry finish.

A Journey to the Heart of Beer Country

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The heart of England has been the source of much of the industrial wealth the nation has generated over the centuries, and it also has a prominent position in the nation’s consciousness when it comes to the beer industry, one of England’s most famous exports.

The north and east Midlands are particularly well known for their beer brewing history, especially the counties of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, as well as parts of eastern Staffordshire.

Nottinghamshire has been lucky to have been the home to several good breweries within its boundaries. Water from the River Trent has played a pivotal role in the brewing industry in the county, both in terms of using the water as an ingredient and for transporting the finished product.

The earliest written evidence of brewing activity in Nottinghamshire comes from a record of 1395, and there are numerous references to beer and beer brewing from the county throughout the centuries, while Greens Brewery holds the distinction of being Nottingham’s first brewery.

One of the major reasons for the flourishing beer trade in the county was the quality of the barley grown in the Vale of Belvoir, which was a rich and convenient source for the brewers. By the middle of the seventeenth century, Nottinghamshire beer brewing was at its height. In those days, the use of hops for flavouring was not always approved. The word beer was reserved for hopped products, while ale was always brewed without hops, and porter was a dark form of beer.

Neighbouring Derbyshire and Staffordshire also have an impressive beer heritage. Burton Abbey, which was founded in the 11th century, had its own brewhouse able to cater for the needs of both residents and travelers. The excellence of the beer it produced gained national recognition by the middle of the 14th century.

This came to an abrupt end with the dissolution of the Abbey in 1540, but ownership of the brewhouse passed to the Paget family whose efforts encouraged the economic development of the town and the surrounding area. This included the malting of local barley and the brewing of ale at many of the town’s inns, and Burton ale continued to be regarded as some of the finest in the country.

In the 17th century, the wider Trent Valley became more widely noted in London as the source of fine ales, both bottled and in cask. Prices for these beers varied, but they were usually more expensive than the beers and ales brewed in London and were the preserve of the wealthier and fashionable classes. Nottingham and Derby were more noted than Burton at this time, though that was likely to be due to the superior transport links to those cities.

Burton’s moment of fame came in the 18th century when its beer became popular in the Baltic states. This unlikely export story came about because Burton beer could be transported by canal to the port of Hull, from where it was taken over the North Sea to Russia and the Baltic region.

Like other local beer industries, the beer sector in the East Midlands was affected by the increasing influence of huge beer conglomerates after the Second World War, with mass produced beers replacing the previous myriad array of local varieties.

Thankfully, a long campaign, begun by the Campaign for Real Ale in the 1970s, led to an increasing awareness of the importance of local products and higher quality beer. This trend was accelerated in the early 2000s with the emergence of the modern craft and artisanal beer sectors. The result has been a boom in breweries and new beers, and by 2020 it was estimated that there were over 170 breweries based in the east Midlands area.

Today, the east Midlands is once again regarded as one of the world’s most important beer brewing regions. To help you explore the rich beer heritage of this region, here are some of the very best beers produced in the east Midlands:

Axe Edge – Buxton Brewery

The distinctive qualities of the water in the east Midlands make the region ideal for producing IPAs and milds, and one of the best exponents is the Buxton Brewery, in Buxton on Trent, itself just an hour’s drive from the famous spa town of Buxton, which is famous for its pure drinking water. The Buxton Brewery have turned out some remarkable beers, including this IPA, which is packed with pine-suffused bitterness, along with a dash of fresh fruit and a crisp, dry finish. 

Screech Owl Ale, Castle Rock Brewery

Produced by Castle Rock Brewery in Nottinghamshire, Screech Owl Ale was first brewed in 2008 as one of a number of beers that were created to mark the campaign by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust to promote the preservation of endangered species. The beer proved such a success that it won the Society of Independent Brewers (Midlands) Supreme Champion Beer award at the Robin Hood Beer Festival, as well as the SIBA National Strong Bitter title and a Strong Bitter (Champion Beer of Britain) bronze medal in 2013. This well hopped IPA is a favourite throughout England.

Jaipur – Thornbridge

Among the most popular of the modern craft beers, Jaipur is prominent. Known as one of the world’s best IPAs, Jaipur is brewed by Thornbridge of Bakewell in Derbyshire. It has won more than 100 awards around the world, including the prestigious gold medal at the World Beer Awards. Jaipur is a masterful combination of six hop varieties, including Centennial and Cascade and is it offers the archetypal IPA blend of aroma, bitterness and flavour.

The ’45 – Bentley Brook

The Bentley Brook Brewing Company, Matlock is a Micro-Brewery sitting on the edge of the Peak District, which operates from an old mill in the Lumsdale Valley. All of their beer is brewed in small batches, so every batch has that extra level of attention and care, and they specialise in cask and bottle conditioned ales, which bring together the tradition of British hand pulled cask ales with new, craft styles and flavours. 

The ’45 was created to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and is brewed using rye, oats and barley, along with English hops. There is also a direct link with the local area as during the war, the Baileys Tump air defence site was situated less than a mile from the brewery.  

Dovedale IPA – Dovedale Brewing Co

Dovedale Brewing Co. was set up in 2017 and has made a big impact in a relatively short space of time. They specialize in the production of premium quality craft beers and take an independent and original approach to beer brewing. All of their beers, produced in the Peak District National Park,

are naturally conditioned in keg, cask, bottle and can and they are all vegetarian friendly. Their IPA is a classic example of West Coast style beer, oozing malt, caramel and fruity American hops, with a delightful aroma of spice, orange and grapefruit from the generous dry hopping process.

Coal Face Stout – Silver Brewhouse

The east Midlands has a long history of coal mining and this is a local beer that references the region’s tradition. Silver Brewhouse is a Derbyshire based craft brewery, which is notable for producing some of the finest craft ales in the Midlands, employing both traditional and modern methods. Their Coal Face Stout is an easy drinking oat stout, which employs First Gold and Bramling X hops, resulting in a complex combination of rich roast malt flavours.

Giddy Edge IPA – Moot Oak Brewing

Moot Ales was founded by the Mews family in Matlock, who came up with the idea of brewing their own beer and selling it through the family pub, the Red Lion. This bore fruit in 2018 when the Moot Oak Brewing Company was born. The brewery is housed in a building behind their pub and has given rise to a tasty range of beers produced from ‘all grain’ ingredients.

This beer showcases another aspect of this part of the east Midlands, where millions of visitors arrive every year to explore the Peak District, including many real ale drinkers. Giddy Edge is named after a well-known local landmark and is a tasty ale that employs maris otter pale malts blended with pils and caramel malts, and uses the Chinook, Admiral and Fruggles hops varieties.

Brakeman Best Bitter – Headstocks Brewery

Established in 2017 initially to brew Prussia Lager in collaboration with a partner brewery in Kaliningrad on the Lithuanian border, Headstocks expanded their range in 2018 to include real ale. The first two real ales to be added were Canary Pale Ale and this beer, Brakeman Best Bitter. It is a warming traditional best bitter that offers subtle caramel and nutty undertones.

Cool Down with the Best of London Beer

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The biggest city in England, and a genuine European centre of civilization, London has always had a profile that was bigger than the nation of which it is capital. As a result, it often represents England in a number of sectors, not least in upholding the finest of English traditions: beer.

Originally, the heart of beer production was in the monasteries of England, prior to the Reformation, but the capital city developed into a powerhouse of beer production, becoming the most significant beer production centre in the country, from the 18th century.

In fact, in that century,  there is a case for saying that London became the most significant brewing city in the world, thanks partially to the reputation of its porter, a dark brown beer that was hopped generously and allowed to mature in enormous vats.

Samuel Whitbread was one of the first big names in the brewing trade in London, launching his operation in 1742. He founded a dynasty on the fortune he made from porter, and his name became intrinsically associated with beer in the process. Such was the dominance of porter in the London beer scene that by the early 19th century, the Barclay Perkins brewery in Southwark was reputed to be the biggest in the world, and was given over entirely to the production of porter.

It was also in the 18th century that Hodgson’s, a small brewery based at Bow, was contracted to supply the East India Company. Among the various beers they provided was a pale, bitter brew which, due to the buffeting it received on its sea journey, matured at an accelerated pace and arrived in India with a distinctive taste.

Over the next few decades, the label ‘India pale ale’ was given to various pale, hoppy beers of export quality. Unfortunately for London, despite the fact that IPA was born there, it was perfected in Burton-upon-Trent in the Midlands and soon even London-based breweries, such as Truman’s of Brick Lane, were acquiring facilities in the Midlands in an effort to compete with Bass.

London remained important, and was the home base for several big names, notably Courage, Watney’s and Whitbread. Those three were, by the mid-20th century, ranked among the so-called  ‘Big Six’ – a group of large firms which, by acquiring smaller breweries and crushing competition, had achieved a near-monopoly over the UK beer market. By the 1970s, there were few independent breweries left in London, with Young’s of Wandsworth and Fuller’s of Chiswick being two notable exceptions.

There was some pushback against this monopolizing trend, which also fuelled the rise of the Campaign for Real Ale. New breweries began to emerge in London, including Godson’s, which was founded by Patrick Fitzpatrick in 1977. It was soon followed by David Bruce’s Goose & Firkin brewpub at Borough, which was the first of what would later be a national chain.

Many of the breweries in that mini revival of the London scene disappeared and even Young’s was eventually taken over. By 2010, it was suggested that there were only 14 breweries in London.

Yet all of that changed dramatically in the 2000s thanks to tax changes introduced by the Labour government. Meantime set up operations in Greenwich in 2000, and the Kernel, directly inspired by BrewDog, gave a huge boost to the beer boom. Other breweries sprang up and the famous Bermondsey Beer Mile, home to seven breweries occupying railway arches, has become a symbol of London’s vibrant beer scene.

In fact there are now more than 80 breweries in the capital, with more on the way, and there is once again a buzz around London beer. These new breweries are firmly focused on quality over quantity, producing some of the most exciting beers ever seen in the capital. Here are some of the best.

Beavertown Gamma Ray, Haringey

London’s fastest-growing brewery, founded in the kitchen of a Hackney pub restaurant and now occupying several industrial units close to the Lee Valley Park, Beavertown is one of the most exciting breweries around.  They produce an impressive array of beers, offering quality, consistency and depth of flavour,  exemplified by their flagship IPA Gamma Ray. This remarkable beer is bursting with tropical fruit, lemon and pine from New World hops, yet is not too bitter, and is drinkable enough to be quaffed directly from the strikingly designed cans for which the brewery is famous.

Anspach & Hobday The Porter, Southwark

A&H are one of the famous seven breweries located along the historic railway viaduct through Bermondsey. The company got their big break when their distinctive porter triumphed in a beer making competition. This is a porter with a huge chocolate and malt loaf aroma and a luxuriously smooth and fruity palate which offers a bite of roasty malt and vanilla hints in the finish.

Bullfinch Milou Saison, Lambeth

A brewery that emerged from veterans of Anspach & Hobday, Bullfinch Brewery set up their operations in a spectacular site across from Brockwell Park. This brew references the original name of cartoon character Tintin’s dog, and is a tasty and cheerful golden beer laced with citrus and yeasty spice and fruit, backed by a firm grain base is supremely refreshing despite its high strength.

Pressure Drop Wu Gang Chops the Tree, Hackney

Hackney is now arguably London’s second major beer destination after Bermondsey, and Pressure Drop, a small brewery that started out in a Stoke Newington garage, is a local favourite. This speciality is the result of a happy accident: an eminently drinkable wheat beer subtly flavoured with locally foraged bay leaves. You might also identify subtle flavours of fennel, chamomile and citrus  as well as a light, tangy base with a delicate bitterness in the finish.

Fuller’s Vintage Ale, Hounslow

The proud history of London’s only surviving historic brewery goes back at least 200 years longer than its official founding date. Fuller’s has long had a reputation for traditional cask ale with specialities such as outstanding barley wine, produced annually to a slightly varying recipe and capable of ageing gracefully for many years. This vintage ale is spicy, warming and assertively hoppy when new, but after being cellared for a few years, it becomes mellow and immensely complex, with red fruit, orange, tobacco and port- or sherry-like notes.

The Kernel London Sour, Southwark

The brewery that launched the Bermondsey Mile and put the capital’s craft brewing industry on the map, remains one of London’s very best. It’s difficult to pick just one beer from their fabulous range that includes world class IPAs and heritage porters, but they are well known for their sours and this  Berliner Weisse-inspired drink is a perfect representative. It offers a refreshing glassful with a finely balanced tang of lemon and hints of pomegranate. It also sold in fruited versions.

Partizan X Ale, Southwark

Arguable Bermondsey’s most artisanal brewery, Partizan create small batches to changing recipes in their base under an arch near the old Blue market. Mild ale is relatively unknown in London but X is an excellent historical recreation from the days when it was England’s staple type of beer, as well as being less than mild in alcohol content. This dark glassful offers flavours of cherries, liquorice and hints of chocolate biscuit, along with a lasting and slightly roasty drying finish.

Weird Beard Fearless Spreadsheet Ninja, Ealing

Lager is a style of beer that has a noble history, particularly in Europe, although it has been let down by the prevalence of mediocre mass produced brands in the second half of the 20th century. But this refreshing drink is being rehabilitated by craft brewers, including several in London. This delightful pils, brewed by a team of former homebrewers near the river Brent, uses US hops to deliver lemon and tropical fruit flavours into a classic pilsner crispness supported by plenty of creamy malt.  

Redemption Trinity, Haringey

Now regarded as one of the older breweries in the artisanal London scene, Redemption distinguishes itself with a range of high quality cask beers that can please both youthful craft aficionados and old-school real ale fans. Golden ale Trinity is a perfect combination of traditional skill and modern flair, packing a world of flavour into what is a relatively low strength beer. The result is a fresh, grassy drink, with pleasing aromas of tropical fruit and rose.

Sambrook’s Junction, Wandsworth

Sambrook’s was among the first of the new wave of London brewers, and it is now established as a producer of old-school cask beers, along with a more contemporary ‘craft’ range too. Junction is one of their most interesting: a complex special bitter that stays refreshing while also delivering a depth of blackcurrant, marmalade and roasted flavours. By the way, the junction in question is Clapham, known as England’s busiest train station, whis is only a short walk away from the brewery.