Last week I read an article online that I had a hard time swallowing. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had selected an official beer for the Olympic games in London. At this point I’m thinking, “How awesome is that?! An official Olympic beer!” Then I read what beer was selected. Heineken. What???
Heineken, really? A lager from the Netherlands and not that great of a lager to boot.
England is known for its Ales, Porters and Stouts, not Lagers. After spending some time researching for this post I discovered with enough ca$h anyone can be selected as an “Official _______”, (fill in the blank) of the Olympics. In my opinion the honor should go to a product from the host county. I thought the Olympics were about finding out who was the best, not the richest.
With my nickers in a bunch, I decided I was not going to stand for this and needed to select “Mike’s Official English Beer for the London Olympics.” And it’s not just my nickers that were in a bunch, it was also Greg Mulholland, a British politician. He recently complained to the IOC that selecting Heineken was an affront to the celebration of British culture that are the London Games, saying:
“Beer is the UK’s national drink and the country has a strong and ancient tradition of brewing; by choosing a mass produced bland foreign lager, the committee has ignored all the wonderful, traditional beers that the UK has to offer and instead gone for the company with the biggest cheque book.”
“The Olympic Games is a prime opportunity for Britain to showcase the best of British, including the opportunity to promote its traditional beers and its thriving brewing industry. By opting for Heineken as the official beer, the opportunity has been lost. The decision is completely at odds with the strong positive British identity of the bid and the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics.”
In a press release Heineken said, “In addition to Heineken lager, we will supply London 2012 venues with the nation’s favourite ale, British-brewed John Smith’s, and the nation’s favourite cider, British-made Strongbow.”
When it comes to beer, England has plenty to choose from. Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to BevMo I go, to sample beers from England. My rules for selecting beers were simple. It had to be manufactured in England, not the United Kingdom, and it should be an Ale. Sorry Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
During this little adventure I will be using the Beer Stick Bottle Opener. It was a birthday gift from the Bierkast Founder himself, Kip. It’s a wood stick almost 8” long with the logo lasered into the side. I’ve been using the Beer Stick since February and have opened many a bottle with it without incident until just recently. The metal tooth that grabs the bottle cap had compressed the wood behind it and no longer opened bottles. This was quickly remedied with a wood wedge, and I was back in business. As I started my research for this article I wrote a quick email to The Beer Stick explaining what had happened. The owner, Ben, was quick to reply and quick to ship a replacement. He also stated that this has only happed once. The Beer Stick has to be the easiest bottle opener to use. It has an incredible amount of leverage with very little force and you are left with a perfect, non-crimped bottle cap.
While at BevMo I loaded up with English Ales. I made my selections, check out, and headed home. I had too many beers to select from all at once, so I decided to keep with the Olympic theme and have heats.
In the first heat I selected four different beers. Starting us off we have ‘Organic Best Ale’ from a fantastic English Brewery, Samuel Smith. We also have two from Fuller’s, ‘London Pride’ and ‘ESB.’ In lane 4 ‘Olde Suffolk’, English Ale, aged in oak vats, from Greene King. Fuller’s ESB (Extra Special Beer–and they are not kidding) is an excellent example of an English Ale. It has a wonderful balance between the malt and hops, it makes for easy drinking, and it took a strong lead in the first heat, followed closely by ‘London Pride,’ ‘Olde Suffolk,’ and bringing up the rear ‘Organic Best Ale’.
The second heat is small and only cans. ‘Pub Ale’ by Boddingtons, and ‘Old Speckled Hen’ from Morland Brewing are the only two participants in this heat. Both cans have the widget inside to give it that creamy white head. First place went to ‘Old Speckled Hen’ which took me by surprise. I used to love Boddingtons. Now I can’t find any flavor. It was just creamy and cool looking when I poured it.
There are five contenders in the last heat. ‘Old Brewery Pale Ale’ by Samuel Smith’s, another two from Fuller’s, ‘1845’ and ‘Honey Dew,’ ‘Wychraft Blonde Ale’ from Wychwood Brewery and ‘Brown Ale’ from Newcastle. There wasn’t a bad beer in this heat and making the decision as to which one would go on to the finals was tough, so I start looking at it from the other direction: which one did I look forward to drinking the least? The decision was a little easier then. Newcastle and Wychwood would not be going to the finals. Don’t get me wrong here; both are great beers. It’s just that if I was given the choice I would take a Fuller’s or Samuel Smith’s before the other two.
Here we are, folks, at the final round. Thanks for staying with me this long. For those that drifted off, in the final round we had a strong showing from Fuller’s with ‘ESB,’ ‘London Pride,’ Honey Dew,’ and ‘1845.’ We also have ‘Old Brewery Pale Ale’ and ‘Old Speckled Hen.’ This is too close to call. If you find yourself staring at the beer section, you will not be disappointed with any of these fine British Ales. But if I had to choose an Official British Beer for the Olympics, I would go with Fuller’s. Every one of their beers was brilliant. They have a great variety, traditional English Bitters, plenty of Ales including a light beer, a Belgian style Abbey, an IPA, and a Porter. Something for everyone.
I was never a big Heineken fan from the beginning, and in my opinion they would have been better off using one of their British brands as the Official Beer of the Olympics like John Smith’s or Newcastle. I do need to thank Heineken, as they opened my eyes to a lot of fantastic ales that England and BevMo have to offer.
As you watch the Olympic Games enjoy them with an English beer and please drink responsibly.