It is not a public holiday and, apart from a few parades and occasional happy hours, April 23 passes relatively uneventfully in the mother country. Saint George, who may not have even existed, certainly got around if he did. He is the patron saint of at least eight countries – including England, Ethiopia and Russia – and revered by diverse groups including butchers, soldiers, boy scouts, Freemasons and people with syphilis. Assuming he was a real historical figure, Saint George was certainly not English and it is possible he never even visited those green and pleasant lands.
Being ever so slightly Scottish, the Malthouse’s proprietor has never been particularly proficient at taking instructions from people born south of Hadrian’s Wall and, as a result, has decided to celebrate Saint George’s Day in style. The bar will be open from the earlier time of 10am, traditional English fare will be served, rare footage of English sporting victories will be on the big screen and, best of all, there will be two new English ales on tap.
There is some indication that Saint George’s Day is becoming a bit more of an event back in England. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the breweries are in the vanguard of the pro-George movement. Wells Bombardier is a huge supporter and has petitioned the British Prime Minister to make Saint George’s Day a proper holiday. They call their Bombardier beer “the drink of England” and have produced an advert saying it is as English as “Shakespeare whistling three lions on a donkey ride around the Albert Hall.” That’s right up there with the iconic Spitfire “Bottle of Britain” adverts in my book (or blog).
It is hoped that the traditional English fare will include pork pies. These pies, if obtainable, purport to be the very best pork pies in New Zealand. For my mind, it is hard to beat a pint of fine ale and a good pork pie with a dash of English mustard. With any luck, no spotted dick will be available. It’s horrible.
The first of the new beers will be Fuller’s London Pride (4.7%). It is the flagship beer from London’s oldest family brewery. There has been brewing on their Chiswick site for over 350 years. Fuller’s beers have the distinction of winning CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain competition five times. London Pride is a copper beer with touch of citrus on the nose. It is exceptionally smooth and boasts a strong malt base and benefits from the generous use of Target, Challenger and Northdown hops. London Pride is a flavourful, balanced pint.
Joining it on tap is Old Speckled Hen (4.5%) which proudly proclaims itself “the not so traditional English ale”. It was first made in 1979 by the now defunct Morland Brewery. The highly acquisitive Greene King took over the brewing of Old Speckled Hen some years ago and also made the slightly controversial choice to drop the cask and keg strength down from 5.2%.
This should not take away from what is still a very fine English bitter. It pours a dark amber and has a perky, hoppy nose which showcases the strong but subtle English hops. Fabulously smooth in the mouth, there are fruit, caramel and even pepper notes before a cleansing bitter finish. This famous old hen – named after a paint-splattered MG car – is more than sessionable.
Malthouse staff have raided the archives to find English sporting successes to show on screen. In reality, it will probably just be an endless loop of the 1966 football world cup final. It can’t be any worse than watching the cricket at the moment, by George!
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Wells Bombardier Saint George Campaign – http://www.bombardier.co.uk/bombardier/promotions/petition
Spitfire beer advertisements – http://www.boreme.com/boreme/funny-2006/spitfire-ads-p1.php
Fuller’s London Pride – http://www.fullers-ales.com/london_pride.php
Old Speckled Hen – www.oldspeckledhen.co.uk/
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz/blog/blog.html
Beer and Brewer Magazine – http://www.beerandbrewer.com/