What has happened to Young’s Special?

With a month to go before the Great British Beer Festival (which I’ll report on in due course), I have just returned from a brief trip to London where (as always when possible ) I took the opportunity to track down favourite beers and hostelries from my London years. We were visiting Tate Britain to see the Lowry exhibition, which was superbly comprehensive, but somewhat depressing, and when we came out, we went to the nearby Morpeth Arms for a drink and a late lunch. I saw that they had Young’s Special on tap, which I haven’t seen in London recently (even at the Lamb). I remember this strong bitter from the 70s and 80s. It was a beer to be treated with respect, and more often I would drink the weaker so-called Young’s Ordinary in Young’s pubs. But of course, that was a long time ago, and the beer is no longer brewed in Wandsworth, since Wells bought the company a few years ago and moved brewing to Bedford. Any beer connoisseur will tell you how critical local water is to beer flavour and quality, and it seems that Young’s Special has changed beyond recognition, maybe as a result of this. It certainly isn’t entirely down to my memory! Anyway, the beer I was served yesterday had none of the flavour and strength that I remember, and it was hard to believe that it was really 4.5% abv. I will seek it out again, maybe at the GBBF, in case this was a one-off bad experience.

On the subject of strong London beers,  I can report, however, that Fuller’s ESB is as good as ever. I sampled that in the Euston Flyer, a regular haunt close to my London hotel.


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