Only two more posts to come in our best new beers of the year feature – and for our penultimate gong we pay a visit to Macclesfield, and another producer who had a breakout year in 2011. Toby McKenzie’s RedWillow Brewery has set the blogs abuzz recently with some cracking beers – and a faithful rendition of a British classic is the next in our best new UK beers of 2011…
RedWillow Brewery, Macclesfield, Cheshire
(cask, released October 2011)
We’ve not seen much of Toby’s beer in Scotland to this point, but drinkers across the North of England are becoming familiar with the characteristic egg-shaped pump clips of RedWillow. His refreshingly honest, PR-free blog is well worth reading, as it charts the highs and lows of being a small, start-up brewery. It was in Leeds that I first tried his beer, in the excellent Mr Foley’s (named after an old-time local property baron) – on the bar that day was RedWillow’s oyster stout – Fathomless.
This particular style has been around for a long time – and dates back to when oysters and stout were a popular pairing (before anyone used the term in the ‘craft beer’ sense). There are a few on the market today – although many (such as those produced by Marstons and Adnam’s) contain not a single bivalve. This is probably down to cost, ease of brewing, and the perception of oysters that many people have. For Fathomless, however, Toby and a couple of mates spent an entire day shucking the little guys – ending up with 250 for the boil.
Oysters have such a delicate flavour, that boiling them into a beer can potentially leach the flavours away – but the joy of Fathomless is that you can clearly pick them out. Jet black, with dark, oaty, malty aromas (Toby had to hand-roast the oats in his kitchen oven) – there was also a slight briney tinge to the nose. The rich stout flavour was followed by a thick, ozoney edge to the finish – a fantastic aftertaste. A perfect fireside beer, Fathomless was a wonderful reward for Toby’s hard work.
Join us tomorrow for our final choice – who will make the list? If your pick doesn’t – stay tuned as we’ll also be posting the ‘nearly beers’. RedWillow’s strong IPA Wreckless recently won gold at the 2011 SIBA North awards – and speaking as one of the judges, I’d say it was well-deserved…