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Brakspear Bitter. This is another beer with a great backstory. Brakspear was founded in Henley-on-Thames in England by a descendent of the 170th Pope.

The 170th Pope, for those not so inclined to the history of Catholicism, was called Adrian IV and happened to be the only the only English Pope in history. He also happened to be from a family called Brakspear whose descendents started a brewery in a quiet river village in 1779. And to keep the connection with his actual name, rather than his Pope name, he used the bee as his symbol (to represent the "B" in "Brakspear"), and the brewery still uses it today.

If we'd been a decade earlier, we'd have been drinking the Brakspear Bitter in the 200-plus year-old brewery, but Brakspear moved out in 2002 and now it's a fancy hotel called the Hotel Du Vin (I know, very English, right?) that doesn't serve bacon for breakfast.

Still, it does serve Brakspear Bitter, which we should be thankful for. For those coming across from a palate schooled in lagers or IPAs, the English bitter style might take a few pints of getting used to, and Brakspear makes this easier to achieve by limiting the Bitter to 3.4% ABV.

It's a deep, rich looking thing that defies its low alcohol count in every way, and it's made from Fuggles and Styria hops and Pale, Crystal and Chocolate malts.

And it's made with the same double-drop brewing technique and the very same copper everything Brakspear has used since a year after the First Fleet landed in Botany Bay. Yep, they just moved it all to Wychwood.

It packs a stupendously big punch for such a low ABV, with big flavours everywhere, big smells, too. There is toffee and caramel and there is a real earthiness to the way it tastes, along with a slight metallic twinge that ale folk might find off-putting.

It's not the fizziest thing, either, being very light in carbonation, but that just helps it go down easier, and there's a lovely crisp bitter finish to it.

I know I keep harping on it, but it's very rare to find a beer with this much flavour with what is effectively a mid-strength ABV. You can knock down as many as you feel like without having to worry about staggering home or feeling bloated.

And I'm sure the Pope would be happy about that.




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