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To sample Real Ale

Montreal, Canada
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706 posts
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To sample Real Ale

During our first trip to London, Oxford, Cotswold and Southwest Wales we want to try many Real Ales...

- Are they available in most of the pubs?

- Since we do not know the name of the hundreds (thousands?) of those ales, is there a typical way to ask for a Real Ales (or they are always known as 'real ales')?

- Are pubs usually (or very rarely) selling small samples (a few onces) of their differents offerings, so we can taste many and discover what we prefer? If yes, is there a typical way to order that?

Sorry for those newbies questions!

East Sussex, United...
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for West Sussex, East Sussex
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1. Re: To sample Real Ale

Good question.

I'd say that most pubs serve at least one real ale these days. Quality can be variable. The best thing to do is to buy The Good Beer Guide online before you go and follow their local recommendations.

That book will give you all the info you need. In short though, look for the long handles on the bar, those should be real ales, hand pulled from the cellar.

Do bear in mind that many real ale drinkers would rather have one or two excellent real ales rather than 5 or 6 ok ones, so although you may get a wide range offered, don't count on it. And the standard bitter may start at 3.8%, rather weaker than you may be used to. This is a "session" beer, allowing you to drink all evening without falling over.

Good pubs will allow you a small taster glass for free. If they do and you like it, I'd be inclined to then buy a pint or two halves of that beer though, that's the purpose of the freebie, a loss leader ! Small taster glasses like you might find in a micro are rare.

Google CAMRA and "passport to the pub" for more info.

Cheers !

Mike

Broadland
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541 posts
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2. Re: To sample Real Ale

I'd second all that AM said, especially researching CAMRA. One thing, a lot of the big brewers are producing real ales. If you want real variety, you need to keep an eye open for beers from the various local micro-breweries. These can very often only be found in a few pubs in their immediate vicinity.

CAMRA will have all the details.

Edited: 02 May 2013, 07:16
Oakham, United...
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3. Re: To sample Real Ale

If you want free samples, you need a good local pub at a time of day when it's not busy. If it's just you and a bloke with a dog at the bar, you have the barperson's attention. You probably need to have the landlord/landlady there, as a poorly paid minion probably isn't allowed to give out freebies. If it's a large high street pub that's part of a national chain and there are 15 people waiting to order a meal, then obviously your chances are lower!

Bucks, UK
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4. Re: To sample Real Ale

Just ask the barman what real ales he has got on then ask for a half (pint) of whatever takes your fancy. Pubs will have a sign outside either stating it is a "free house" (ie able to sell whatever beers they like) or will have the name of the brewery that owns it and whose beers will be offered.

In London (besides free houses) you will find a fair few Youngs, Samuel Smith and Taylor Walkers pubs that will offer a good range of real ales.

In Oxford be sure to visit the Turf Tavern and the Bear, and wander over to the Perch through Port Meadow.

In the Cotswolds you may find a lot of Hook Norton beers on sale, which are very quaffable, and in SW Wales Felinfoel and Brains will be the predominant breweries, both with a good range of real ales.

I would second the recommendation to buy the Good Beer Guide

https://shop.camra.org.uk/

UK
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438 posts
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5. Re: To sample Real Ale

not sure when you are visiting but search for beer festivals.. many pubs hold them these days (we have at least 3 in our area going on over the summer) and Wetherspoons also host their version of a beer festival when you can buy a selection of, say, 3 ales in 1/3 pints at one go. They often have a good selection of real ales generally available anyway.

Edinburgh, Scotland
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6. Re: To sample Real Ale

Amongst my very favourite ales are those of the Donnington brewery, available in only a handful of Cotswold pubs near Stow-on-the-Wold. Definitely a sign to look out for.

Broadland
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7. Re: To sample Real Ale

For the OP, seeing post 5 reminds me of one of those useless bits of info you pick up along life's highways and byways. In the UK, the legal measures for selling beer are 1/3 of a pint or 1/2 a pint or multiples thereof......

Oakham, United...
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8. Re: To sample Real Ale

You might also look up the Hook Norton brewery. I think you can do a brewery tour, and it's in an attractive Oxfordshire village.

FERNANDINA BEACH
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9. Re: To sample Real Ale

I found during our trips to Britian that I was never disappointed by asking the publican which local ale was his favorite, then asking him to draw a pint.

Chuck

UK
Destination Expert
for North Wales
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10. Re: To sample Real Ale

Last time I did that

I got a pint of Creme de Menthe.

You might also see real ale as a Guest Beer.

I don't always go by the first gullop.

Sometimes what tastes ok develops poorly as you finish the pint and sometimes first sip isn't promising but as you sink the pint it becomes morish

Great work is beer research