Fuller, Smith & Turner
Rumour had it that, in the '70s, Fuller's were planning to cease real brewing and become a keg-only concern - only to be saved at the last minute by the real-ale resurgence catalysed by CAMRA. Whatever the reality, thank Bacchus, they kept going with a range of award-winning and, above all, highly drinkable beers.
For those who, like me, love the minutiae of the British Brewing Industry, did you know that the Smith in Fuller, Smith & Turner is the Smith who used to be in Ind Smith before Ind teamed up with Coope to become Ind Coope? And back in the '70s, Ind Coope's Burton Ale used to be one of the finest beers available. Haven't found it in years but I used to walk 4 miles to get to a decent pint of Burton.
Fuller's ESB is another iconic ale - and one which proves the brewer's art isn't stuck in a timewarp as it was first brewed as recently as 1971. A legendary prizewinner and the only beer I know with someone named in honour of it: Emily Susannah Brown, beloved firstborn of the famed 1970s folkie duo, Pete & Rachel.
London Pride is arguably slightly more important than ESB as it is less strong and therefore you can drink more of it. It's probably still a shade too strong to be a true "session bitter" like Young's Ordinary or Brakspear's Ordinary but it has a wealth of flavour on the palate. Savour it - it is one of the world's finest beers and Fuller's would deserve inclusion in this list of heroes for Pride alone.
Fuller's has wobbled from the cause in the past and there have been worrying signs as it goes forward: a little leaning towards "brandness", treating fellow regional stalwarts like Gale's as targets instead of comrades-in-arms and promoting cruel foods like frogs' legs. There is a danger that FST will do a "Greene King" and lurch from a once-loved beer hero (as the purveyor of Abbot used to be) to a brand-obsessed factory wiping out local originality in favour of barrelage profits. Let's hope not.
As long as the Griffin stands guard at the Hogarth roundabout, the glory days of Fuller, Smith & Turner will be remembered. And every Fuller's enthusiast will send a prayer to keep them on the straight and narrow they do so well. The last thing the UK drinker needs is another Greene King clone.