quotes real ale

Opaque Bitter, 1986

“We like to think that Nicholas Breakspear, the only English pope, was a member of this race of inspired brewers, for Brakspear’s draught bitter is undoubtedly the best to be had in England. It is not, of course, clear and cold or thin and gaseous. It is flat, opaque, warmish and tastes of hop fields in the English summer. It also has the supreme advantage of making you slowly, but not too slowly, drunk.”

John Mortimer, ‘That Elusive Ideal: The Perfect Pub‘, New York Times, 5 October 1986

(N.B Original has American spelling of ‘draft’.)

7 replies on “Opaque Bitter, 1986”

That comes across as much more nostalgic vision than reality – and I imagine John Mortimer was more of a wine man anyway.

I don’t recall Brakspear’s to have been any more prone to haziness than other beers at the time.

But it did taste of hop fields in the English summer, and it was a credible contender for being the finest ordinary bitter in the country.

Ah well in that era, for beers available in London, I’d pick Courage Best Bitter, Courage Directors or Ind Coope Burton Ale. Barkeeper’s never tasted right to me in London, it always had an odd butterscotch note, but probably wasn’t at its best in the Capital.


You had to try it in the little basic rural pubs within a 15-mile radius of Henley. I’m fortunate that I got the opportunity in the early 80s. Not only the best beer in Britain, but also the best pub estate.

I weep every time I recall the loss of Brakspear’s.

I’d happily give up all the modern craft breweries if we could have Henley-brewed Brakspear’s back!

In the late 70s & early 80s I distinctly remember believing that the real old true original authentic real ale would be dark brown and cloudy – if you were ever lucky enough to find such a thing, that is. It was a bit of a myth – a traveller’s tale from the depths of the country where they still did things the old way… – but I think it was quite widely-believed. Perhaps it’s a Southern thing.

In about 1980 a group of us went into a Young’s pub which had the Winter Warmer on; it was a cold day, so we went for it. For years after that was it for me, my peak beer experience – it was strong, dark, fruity and cloudy! (In retrospect it probably wasn’t meant to be cloudy.)

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