We’re now halfway through the fifth annual running of the best new British beers of the year feature, with this, the third pick. So far, we’ve had a lemon-heavy London saison and a smooth, full-on Cornish imperial stout. Next up, we move back from the wilds of the South-West to North Yorkshire, and find the best Belgian beer I had all year.
Brass Castle Brewery, Malton, North Yorkshire
As beer writers, bloggers or whatever, we often stand there, trying to think what something tastes like. The entire taste, rather than the sum of its parts. Sure, we purse the lips and tap the pen, and think about coconut or burnt toast or whatever, but there’s often a far more simple, instantly-recognisable analogy that springs to mind. Except, it usually springs into the mind of someone else, and you jot down ‘malty and hoppy’ and squint once again at the beer board. At the end of March, I was at Beertown Malton with lips pursed and pen tapping, rocked back in my stance by a complete unknown – Heretic from local brewery Brass Castle.
It was my second or third choice of the afternoon, after an eventful dash across the market square to evade (unsuccessfully) a ferocious downpour, and it was truly fascinating. But how to summarise? Well, a 6.4% saffron-infused Belgian-style Golden Ale, served on keg in a town hall with a thunderously parping brass band. And then I get home, write my half-arsed blog post, and read this fantastic one from Leigh Linley, who – from a mere half sip – pulled ‘Yorkshire’s Duvel’ from the back of his mind. Just a perfect description – the most brilliantly apt comparison I read all year. Brass Castle Heretic is Yorkshire’s Duvel.
It was – as you can imagine from that – a real treat in an event laden with them. Sweet, spicy and tingling, it pretty much ticked all of the boxes usually pinned next to ‘Belgian flavours’, and the rich, almost musty finish from the saffron was really, really something. I love beers like this – things that you take a punt on purely because you know the brewery, but then after the beer has finished (or within half a sip, for some), it makes you take stock of that which you thought you knew all along. Brass Castle – always a good brewery in my mind – putting out a beer like this? The single-most impressive find of the year, no question.
Check back tomorrow for the next in the series of best new British beers of 2014, selection number four – a darker beer that hinted at tropical climes. Find out then what beer it is. Beertown Malton will return in March 2015, from the 19th to the 21st – if you’re in the North Yorks area, it would be a great drinking trip, with or without Heretic. Hopefully with, though…