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Real Ales in London

Real ales were not on my radar until I begin researching my trip to London. Londoners refer to what we call cask beers in the states with the term “real ales”.

What stunned me in London pubs was the prevalence and number of taps dedicated to real ales… typically 4 taps per pub. Whereas in the U.S., you only occasionally will see a cask ale and those only appear at very specialized beer enthusiast bars.

The difference between a real ale/ cask al and your typical ale (or lager) is that we American’s almost always are drinking beer that have had additional carbonation added to them after the brewing process. This carbonization with carbon dioxide (CO2) not only makes the beer more fizzy, it also pressirizes the keg to make it easy to tap and dispense.

Real ales, by contrast, need to be drawn with a tap that works like a pneumatic pump.

To my American palate, the mouth-feel of most real ales is unnerving. It tastes like beer, but rather than tickling the tongue, it’s smooth, like water.

The London bartenders often had favorite real ales. It was hard for me to adjust.

My favorite beer, and a bartender recommended it, was not a real ale – instead it was a draught pale ale – Camden. Pale Ale from Camden Town Brewery. I had three and a half pints of that brew at the gastropub null & Last in Kentish Town.

Here are pubs I recall and recommend drinking at if you enjoy beer.

Highly recommended:
• Bull & Last (Kentish Town)
• The Harp (Soho)
• Ten Bells (East London)
• Exmouth Arms (Islington)

Recommended
• Feathers (Westminster)
• Fitzroy (Fitzrovia)
• Windmill (Southwark$

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