Published on February 4th, 2013 | by Alastair Gilmour


Take the bride-ale path

A pub and a brewery can make a happy couple – or a couple happy – when it comes to weddings being held in them

Repeat after me: “I Bobby Dazzler, 4.2% abv, take you Dolly Daydream, 4.3% abv, to be my beer companion, to have and to hold from this day forward…”

Granted, it’s not thetraditional marriage vow, but it illustrates a real move for beer to take the place of champagne at a wedding. And there’s a real trend toward the marriage ceremony and the reception being held in a brewery or a pub – or both.

Many couples have realised the benefits of holding a bliss-up in a brewery. Heather and Gary Scott, owners of High House Farm brewery near Matfen in Northumberland, have been pleasantly surprised by the interest in holding wedding receptions – and ceremonies – in their visitor centre, a Grade II-listed set of farm buildings designed originally by John Dobson, the creator of much of Newcastle’s glorious architecture.

Beer and marriage are logical bedfellows – and the biggest beer festival in the world began as a wedding celebration. In 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, the citizens of Munich were invited to celebrate in fields on the outskirts of the city and enjoy themselves horseracing, drinking and feasting. Two hundred years later they’re still at it – the Munich Beer Festival (Oktoberfest) is a 16-day celebration running from mid-September to early October.

Shepheard Neame, Britain’s oldest-existing brewery, offers weddings in 15th century surroundings and the listed Victorian buildings at The National Brewery Centre in Burton upon Trent also provide an impressive setting. For real style, they’ll reserve a carriage pulled by Shire horses or some vintage brewery vehicles.

As for beer, Samuel Adams, one of the biggest brewers in the US, has released the slightly cringeworthy-named Brewlywed. It is a limited edition Belgian-style ale described by the brewers as “the colour of a golden wedding band” and is finished with a champagne closure. Beer has been betrothed to the act of matrimony for centuries. The word “bridal” is believed to be a corruption of “bride-ale”, a special beer brewed for weddings, and wedding presents were traditionally given by guests in exchange for beer.

Without beer, there would be no “honeymoon” – 4,000 years ago in Babylon, it was common practice for the bride’s father to provide a month’s supply of mead, or honey beer, to his new son-in-law for a full lunar month.

This was said to increase fertility and heighten the chance of producing a male heir. In fact, the bride would often be sent to bed on the night of the wedding to allow the groom to drink as much honey beer as he could. It was a man’s world then.

He would then be brought to his bride’s bedside, hell bent on some honey hanky-panky and if, nine months later, a son was somehow sired, the brewer of the mead would take some of the credit.

Some people just don’t get it, though. Despite all the commemorative brews that »

» celebrated the Kate and Wills royal wedding, they actually banned beer from their reception. A source told the Mirror at the time: “There won’t be any beer. Let’s face it, it isn’t really an appropriate drink to be serving in the Queen’s presence at such an occasion.”

But some beers have weddings particularly in mind. Kasteel Cru, a delicate, pale straw champagne beer from Northern France is deliciously delicate and dry, topping a champagne flute with a firm and fluffy white head. Kasteel Cru Rosé, meanwhile, is crafted with the addition of elderberry and makes an excellent aperitif.

Belgian cherry lambic beers, such as Mort Subite Oude Kriek, are wonderful as wedding beers. Their tartness with a bone-dry champagne-like acidity and hints of almond are perfect served as a pre-dinner drink.

And Nuptu’ale from Hampshire-based Oakleaf Brewery is described as having “a hint of sweetness”. Aah, just the thing to describe a happy marriage. But wait, it also comes with “an uncompromising bitterness”. Oh dear. But here’s to the happy couple anyway.

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Alastair Gilmour

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