We don't need an excuse for a drink in Britain but if we did, Jubilee Weekend would be it. Party fever is building. Have you decided yet what or where you will be drinking? If not, may I offer my suggestions for patriotic libations to celebrate this historic time?
This is an irresistible opportunity to wave a flag for British booze. Britain excels in brewing and distilling and is arguably the leading nation for the quality and diversity of the alcoholic drinks it produces. Scotch whisky - highly prized around the world, its exports underpin the Scottish economy. Beer - several of the most popular styles brewed throughout the world were invented in England including porter, imperial stout, India pale ale, and barley wine. Cask conditioned, aka real ale, is a peerless British tradition. Cider and perry - I defy anyone to name a country that has so many notable farmhouse cider and perry producers and varieties of apples and pears. Gin - comes in two versions - London and Plymouth, and the recent renaissance in gin consumption has resulted in small producers creating some excellent spirits that can be drunk neat without causing third degree burns to the roof of the mouth. Sparkling wine was invented in England, not France. There is written proof in the archives of the Royal Society. English sparklers have been winning gold medals in blind tastings at international wine competitions. Another reason to stand tall and proud!
Each day should start with a glass of English fizz to awaken the senses. Cornwall's Camel Valley has been described by a leading wine writer as Britain's number one winery and the sparklers they produce are ace. Try the gold medal winning 2010 Cornwall Pinot Noir Rosé Brut for subtle fruity refreshing acidity. And to mark the Jubilee, six Methuselahs were produced (each containing eight bottles) but you may have to commit a crime to secure one.
For a pre-lunch aperitif what else but copy the Queen's habit and have a gin & Dubonnet over ice. Make it with 30% gin from one of two London distillers - Sacred or Sipsmith, and 70% Dubonnet. The latter is a French brand of fortified wine flavoured with herbs and spices. It also contains quinine so is just what the doctor ordered.
For a mid-afternoon restorative go for some fruit in the guise of cider or perry. One of my favourites is the face-scrunchingly tart cider Kingston Black by Gwatkins, but for something less challenging try Marcle Ridge by Dragon Orchard. Perry (sometimes called pear cider) is easy drinking and the Cider & Perry Company in Ross on Wye makes a fine perry from Blakeney Red pears.
When beer o'clock comes there is a plethora of brews to choose. Brewers are renowned for creating celebration ales and this year there is a bumper selection of beers created especially to mark 60 years on the throne.
As there are so many options I will just recommend beers with a story behind them. Let's start with the nearest brewery to Windsor Castle - the Windsor & Eton brewery which has released three inventive Jubilee ales. So far I have tasted two of them and they rock. Treetops is a stout with a twist - in addition to malts and hops, it also contains toasted yams, vanilla pods, and ground coffee - an African nod to the fact that Elizabeth heard the news she had become Queen up a treehouse in Kenya.
Kohinoor is described as a Commonwealth Indies Pale Ale. It contains jaggery (raw cane sugar) widely used in Indian cooking, cardamom pods, jasmine petals, and coriander seeds. The Kohinoor was once the largest diamond in the world and is set into the Queen's coronation crown. Fuller's have produced Hope & Glory - a pale ale made with barley grown on Prince Charles' farm (a variety called Westminster) and flavoured with Sovereign hops. Harvey's in Sussex have revived a barley wine that was created for the coronation in 1953. The 2012 version is called Elizabethan Ale and uses hops grown on farms that supplied the original brew 60 years ago. And an old favourite has received a makeover - Shepherd Neame's Spitfire will be known throughout the summer as Glorious Spitfire.
Where to drink these beers? At the pub. Britons sometimes take for granted the amazing institution that is the public house, but ask a visitor to these shores what they want to do during their stay and it's likely they will say 'go to a pub'. A pub visit is in the Top 10 things that overseas tourists do when in Britain. French writer Hilaire Belloc was spot on when he said "When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves - for you will have lost the last of England." So head down the Queen's Arms and order a pint.
Ready for a nightcap yet? You might need a stiff drink when you hear about a limited edition of 60 bottles of Scotch called Diamond Jubilee by John Walker & Sons. Each one costs £120,000 and comes in a diamond-shaped Baccarat crystal decanter adorned with a silver collar set with a half-carat diamond. The whisky inside is a blend that has been aging since 1952. It was finished in a cask made from oak grown on the Queen's Sandringham estate. Profits will be donated to the Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother) Scholarship charitable fund. To share the whisky love around, visit Norfolk and the English Whisky Company to buy a limited edition single malt called St George's Jubilee Whisky. Fans of Highland Scotch should like its heather and honey character. Or head to the Brecon Beacons national park in Wales and the Penderyn Distillery where the Penderyn Madeira Finished Single Malt is a gold medal winner in the 2012 International Whisky Competition.
God save the Queen and the British pubs and drinks economy!
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