I’m not sure what the collective noun would be for a group of beer writers – although there are so many archaic terms relating to brewing that at least one of them might fit (a ‘sparge’ of beer writers?). An alternative would be a ‘twissup’ of beer writers; one of which took place in the fine city of York over the weekend. A Twissup is Twitter-planned meet-up (or p*ss-up, if you prefer) of assorted bloggers who arrive en masse in a startled city to swap stories, put faces to websites, and of course drink plenty of beer. We’re big fans of the York drinking scene here at the BeerCast, so Shovels and myself went down to join in.
The very long day began at noon with a tour of the York Brewery. We’ve done that before, but it’s always interesting to poke around a brewery, and Mick the head brewer was so amusing in his delivery that the tour was highly entertaining. It was bookended by a couple of their products of course, so beforehand we sampled Motueka – which Mick cheerfully said he could never pronounce and had never even tried; and after the tour we tried First Light. Both were what York do best – pale golden session beers, and the frankly delicious Motueka was definitely the pick.
From there, it was through a Narnia-esque hidden passage to the back of Brigantes and a pretty average Brass Monkey Bitter, which had a unusual coppery flavour. Cafe Pivni (Pivo as was) was the next destination – one of our favourite drinking destinations in York, as there’s always something interesting on. Even a large array of BrewDog beers didn’t slow us down as there was plenty more on offer. I say this because of course coming down from Scotland we have many opportunities to sample BrewDog’s beer – but less to try Camden Town’s Camden Pale Ale, which was lovely. Pivni had only last week replaced Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with this British equivalent, and I think others agree with us that it was a great decision, even considering the class of SNPA.
Also at Pivni we caught up with Ann from the Hardknott Brewery – part of Cumbria’s flourishing microbrewery scene. Keen to differentiate themselves from the others, Hardknott concentrate on more unusual brews – as they say “there’s more to beer than just ale”. While we were chatting to Ann about the brewery, she passed round some samples of their 2010 Ӕther Blӕc, a rich and boozy barrel aged imperial stout. We’d actually already got hold of four of their beers for a future podcast, so check back in a few weeks for our Hardknott Brewery Showcase.
After a brief pitstop at the House of the Trembling Madness for a pint of Brooklyn Lager, the next stop was the Rook and Gaskill just outside the city walls. With the ceiling adorned with old pump clips, it reminded me of the Market Porter in Borough, and had a huge range of ales on. By this point we were chatting to members of the York University Real Ale Society and to Gavin Aitchison, beer columnist of the York Press. With several local guides we then launched into an impromptu outer walls pub crawl, scurrying over the road to the Waggon and Horses (which according to Beer in the Evening is 0.0 miles away).
With Gavin having taken everyone under his wing, we had a great couple of darker ales in the Waggon, served by the friendly landlord Paul Marshall. Ascot Penguin Porter and Revolutions Kraftwerk both went down really well, the latter from a music-themed brewery that specialises in dark ales, and only produces beers with abv’s of 3.3, 4.5 and 7.8% to match the old vinyl notations. Kraftwerk was an extremely drinkable brown (or ‘Braun’) ale with a lovely bitter malty finish.
From there, we still had another four pubs to visit, so we headed through to the Phoenix, and then the Slip, the Swan and finally the Golden Ball. York has some fantastic historical pubs in the city centre – such as the classic Blue Bell – but those just outside the walls also have many of the original features, or like the Phoenix have had them restored. We’ll be putting together another edition of our York Pub Guide to take these into account, as they all deserve a visit. As for the beers, Ilkley Mary Jane, Five Towns Vintage 51, Salamander Dr Awkward and Osset Corker rounded off the day in some style.
So that was it for the twissup – twelve hours of drinking and chatting, during which time we managed to get through sixteen beers and ten pubs. Many thanks to Gavin and the lads from the York Real Ale Society for the evening pub tour, and to everyone Shovels and myself chatted to during the course of the day/night. The next twissup is rumoured to be in Edinburgh in October – being the BeerCast’s hometown expect us to be leading the course around several of our local pubs…