This is a work in progress which overlaps with an earlier, more general timeline, and we’re still corresponding with a few ‘insiders’ who should be able to help us fill in gaps.
What seems obvious already, however, is how slowly foreign beer made its way into the UK market over the course of decades (you had to like Chimay Rouge or Anchor Steam) and how sudden the rush of the last ten years seems by comparison.
Is all the ‘Urquell and Chimay aren’t what they used to be’ talk partly a result of those beers having been here the longest? Familiarity breeding contempt?
And is Cooper’s Sparkling Ale even remotely as cool now as it was in 2002?
|1955||‘World lagers’ widely available (German, Danish); Pilsner Urquell; Maerzen, bock, Oktoberfestbier in some outlets; strong foreign stouts on order.||According to Andrew Campbell in The Book of Beer, Tuborg imperial stout could be ‘got in’ by specialist off-licences such as the Vintage House in Old Compton Street.The Pilsner Urquell company had an office in Mark Lane, London EC3, in 1968.|
|1968||Becky’s Dive Bar: 200+ bottled beers.||Lots of ‘world lager’, but basically anything ‘foreign’ she could get her hands on.|
|August 1974||World Beer Festival, Olympia, London||Mostly ‘international pilsner’, but also EKU strong lager from Germany.|
|November 1974||Chimay (Rouge?) becomes regular UK import.||Through off-licence chain Arthur Rackham.|
|1975||Cooper’s Sparkling Ale from Australia available.||Mentioned by Richard Boston in a list of desert island beers, alongside Chimay.|
|1977||Michael Jackson’s World Guide to Beer.||We’re still assessing the impact of this book. Thesis: didn’t sell many copies, but everyone who bought one opened a brewery, import company, pub or bar; or became a beer writer themselves.|
|1979||Anchor Steam, Duvel available at CAMRA Great British Beer Festival.||Hugely expensive: £1.65 for ‘third of a pint’ bottle of Anchor Steam, while British ales were at 35p a pint.|
|1979 and 1980||Cave Direct and James Clay founded.||(We’re still assessing the significance of this.)|
|c.1980||Chimay Rouge in pubs.||E.g. The White Horse, Hertford. (Thanks, Des!)|
|c.1982||Pitfield Beer Shop opens.||By 1988 at the latest, selling Liefmann’s Kriek, Samichlaus,|
|1988||Hoegaarden arrives.||Listed by Roger Protz in his pick of the year.|
|1989||Liefmann’s Frambozen available.||1989 article lists it among speciality beers at Grog Blossom off licence, Notting Hill, West London.|
|1990||Brooklyn Lager arrives.||Available only in Harrods!|
|1991||Crazy for bottled ‘designer beer’ takes hold.||Mostly ‘world lager’, but Daily Mirror lists Chimay Blue, Judas and other Belgian beers. Also, Pinkus Alt.|
|1992||Belgos opens in London.||Tipped by stock pundits as a good investment.|
|1993||Hoegaarden in Whitbread pubs.Anchor Liberty Ale available.
German wheat beers slated as ‘next big thing’.
|Mainstreaming of ‘world beer’?
Cascade hops start to be talked about.
|1994-95||Several lengthy articles in the UK press about the ‘explosion’ of US craft brewing.|
|1995||Thresher off-licences run full-page newspaper ads for their ‘world beer’ list.||Early use of the term ‘world beer’ in this particular way; more ‘mainstreaming’.|
|1996||Pete’s Wicked Ale (US) in Tesco stores.||Big time mainstreaming!|
|1998||Belgian beer bar craze.Hogshead pubs (Cambridge, Manchester, Aberdeen) offering large ranges of Belgian beer.||L’Abbaye, Charterhouse St, London, offering 28 Belgian beers, including Westmalle, Rochefort, Orval.|