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28-02-2012, 21:01
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It was once a dominant force in British brewing but Whitbread, as a brewery, no longer exists. The company runs hotels and coffee shops, but doesn’t have anything to do with beer.
Nonetheless, the name, and its connection with beer, lingers on.
A handful of the brands are still in production by various companies, under license from InBev who now own the rights. We’ve seen 275ml bottles of Light Ale in a convenience store in Clapton; bitter on the bar at an old pub in the East End of London; and, of course, supermarket four-packs of bitter and mild every now and then.
In Devon last year we saw a rusting advert for NEW Whitbread Tankard (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mingwall1/4276600681/) on the side of a boarded-up country pub.
And, on Saturday night, when someone nearby ordered a pint of bitter, as it was rung through the till, the word WHITBREAD appeared on its screen in glowing green letters for just a few seconds. Was it a ghost in the machine? No, sure enough, there on the bar, next to the lemonade, was a faded and chipped font for Trophy Bitter, which someone is evidently still making.
Whitbread’s other great legacy would appear to be its yeast: a kind of ‘stud’ which begat many of those currently in use by breweries all over Britain today (http://www.jimsbeerkit.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=41624#p465362). Wouldn’t it be nice to see someone brewing Whitbread’s long lost cask beers with it and bringing the name back from this odd form of suspended animation?

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