In the past week or so, the news media has been awash with coverage of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
When it comes to royal celebrations – be they births, weddings, jubilees, or whatever other happy occasions – Britain's brewers have a long and proud history of marking them with limited release commemorative beers.
Traditionally, these beers have been strong ales, sometimes bottle-conditioned, and often with the potential for long-term cellaring. They're the sort of beers you save for a special day and share with friends and loved ones.
From what I can gather, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee has been no exception; in a column published last Friday the Guardian newspaper reviewed a few of the hundreds of jubilee beers that have been produced.
"Given that it's impossible to avoid the J word this weekend, you might as well give in and buy a commemorative beer", suggests the Guardian's wine writer Fiona Beckett.
Chiltern's Jubilee Sparkling Ale (6 per cent abv) is "a full-flavoured amber style that would be spot on with the coronation chicken".
"It's a limited run of 1000 bottles, as is the more expensive St Austell Royal Diamond Jubilee Imperial IPA, from Cornwall, which comes in a champagne-style bottle and is designed to be drunk in a flute. At 12 a bottle (plus delivery), it's pricey, granted, but it's a rich, heavily hopped, full-strength style (9 per cent abv) designed for ageing."
You get the idea.
With so many brewers offering interesting commemorative beers, you'd think it would have been a doddle to choose something suitably special to include in the official Jubilee hampers which were given to the 12,000 guests attending the royal celebrations at Buckingham Palace last Monday. But you'd be wrong.
Created by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and royal chef Mark Flanagan, who catered for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding, the hampers contained a five-course feast of fine British fayre: tea-smoked Scottish salmon, coronation chicken, West Country farmhouse cheddar, Red Leicester crunch, Sandringham strawberry crumble crunch (made with organic Florence strawberries grown on the Queen's Sandringham Estate in Norfolk), lemon and caraway madeira cake and a chocolate indulgence cake decorated with a chocolate crown.
All very patriotic – until you get to the drinks.
To accompany all that fine British food picnickers had the choice between French Moet et Chandon champagne and – wait for it – Cobra lager!
Cobra? I ask you. A bland, ersatz Indian lager that was designed in Britain to be served at curry houses across the nation, Cobra hardly represents the pinnacle of British brewing. Brewed by a Canada-United States conglomerate, it's the beer equivalent of wine hawked off in three-litre cardboard boxes. Beer fit for a queen? I don't think so.
If I were a British craft brewer, I'd be spitting tacks. Windsor & Eton Brewery head brewer Paddy Johnson, whose brewhouse is a stone's throw from the Queen's other London home, is understandably outraged.
"The people who advise the Royal Family need to wake up to the fact that we need to drink beautiful British beer. It's so easy to do. Cobra? Bloody hell."
Meanwhile, if you're still in the mood for jubilee celebrations later this month, a most appropriate Kiwi beer is just about to be launched.
Brewed in Invercargill by Wellington's Yeastie Boys, this year's vintage of Her Majesty weighs in at 7 per cent and is described as, "a warming strong ale, now in its third unique incarnation, that we release each year as the days shorten".
According to the Yeasties, "this year's model is a dark ale that brings together a mixture of rich British and German malts, a pinch of fruit and earthiness from its East Kent hops, a little secret something for complexity, and a slow cool fermentation to highlight the purity of the ingredients". Early samplings suggest that the "little secret something" might be gorse or heather.
Packaged in 750-millilitre bottles, Yeastie Boys 2012 Her Majesty should be popping up soon at your local specialist beer retailer (try Wino's or Blenheim New World).
Failing that, it will also be available by mail order from Wellington's Regional Wines & Spirits (regionalwines.co.nz).
As the Yeasties suggest, "release it now, or save it for later, and enjoy responsibly along with the laughter of your best friends".
- The Marlborough Express