Tag Archives: York

BeerCast #71 – Hidden Meanings

It’s high time we recorded another BeerCast, so the team gathered to vent their collective spleens over four more beers for your listening pleasure. Following on from the hop-heavy MrB holiday special, this time we return to calmer waters with British beers that all have unusual reasons behind their names. Firstly, we sample Thornbridge’s Vienna lager Kill Your Darlings (5%), before moving on to York Brewery’s Micklegate (6.1%). Our strongest beer of the night is Stewart Brewing’s Radical Road, and we finish on another from here in Scotland – Unforgiven – Tempest’s 5.4% smoked rye and juniper beer. On the panel this time – Richard, Shovels and Grooben – who reveals his astonishing knowledge of Westerns at the Oscars.

1. Kill Your Darlings
Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell, Derbyshire.
500ml glass bottle

We’re no strangers to Bakewell’s Thornbridge Brewery here on the BeerCast – their imperial Russian stout St Petersburg is our reigning beer of the year. They began in early 2005, and have launched the careers of several notable brewers – not to mention won many awards along the way. Kill Your Darlings is their Vienna Lager, a style rarely brewed in the UK – and takes its name from the William Faulker quote about removing the best thing about your work to remain truly objective. That’s why MrB isn’t on this podcast, for example.

What They Say
“Reddish brown in colour with a medium body and characterized by a malty aroma and slight malt sweetness. A twist on this style has been added by late hopping with Amarillo and Tettnanger hops. After a period of cold fermentation, the beer has been lagered for five weeks.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Sweet, hoppy and bready, I think it’s cracking 8
Shovels – Nice darker malts in there with the crispness of a lager 8
Grooben – It’s a type of beer I’ve not had before, it’s nice 7

2. York Micklegate
York Brewery, York.
500ml glass bottle

The current York brewery is the first working facility within the walled city for over forty years, having been established in an old motorbike showroom in 1996. Their very first brew was Yorkshire Terrier (which we covered on BeerCast #20). This year sees their fifteenth anniversary, so to celebrate they released a one-off strong beer, named after the nearby street and gateway into their home city – Micklegate. Taken from the Old Norse ‘mykla gata’ – it means, simply, ‘great street’.

What They Say
“A tawny red ale, fruity and floral with a distinctive hop aroma and flavour which is robust and very satisfying.” [Bottle label]

What We Say
Shovels – Nice balance of bitterness and a bit of fruit
Richard – Dark, roasty fruits and well-hidden alcohol
Grooben – I’m finding it difficult to get excited about it 6

3. Radical Road
Stewart Brewing, Loanhead, Edinburgh.
500ml glass bottle

Stewart Brewing have established a solid lineup of cask and bottle session beers in Edinburgh, chipping away at the dominance of the Caledonian Brewery in Slateford. But they have been rolling the dice a lot recently on stronger or more unusual offerings. Radical Road is the first triple-hopped beer they have produced, and was a labour of love of head brewer Iain Couper. We tried it on keg back in July at the release – this is the first time we’ve sampled the bottle. The beer is named after the walking path that circles Arthur’s Seat in the city, which was first paved by the unemployed following the ‘Radical War’ of 1820.

What They Say
“Three different hops are added to the kettle at five different stages during the boil, it is then hopped in the fermentation vessel and finally the beer is dry hopped in the conditioning tank before the beer is bottled. This makes for the highest hopped beer in the Stewart Brewing repertoire and of course some very hoppy beer!” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – I think this might be the best beer they do 8
Shovels – Was better on keg at the launch, I think
Grooben – I’d expect more hop character for a 6.4%er 6

4. Unforgiven
Tempest Brewing Co, Kelso, Scottish Borders.
500ml glass bottle

Tempest Brewing Company blasted onto the scene midway through 2010, and have already made several outstanding beers in that short time. Fond of keg dispense and interesting adjuncts, they are based just behind Kelso’s Cobbles Inn – the recently announced CAMRA pub of the year for SE Scotland (something for everyone there, clearly). All of their beers have imaginative names, so including one was a natural fit for our ‘hidden meanings’ podcast. I contacted Tempest to discover what the thinking was behind Unforgiven. It turns out, predictably, there is none – they just liked the name.

What They Say
“Unforgiven contains Tempest’s signature NZ hop backbone, but true to form also involves a whole lot more – in this case, oak chips and dried juniper berries.” [BeerCast review]

What We Say
Richard – Juniper in there is a great idea, fantastic balance
Grooben – It could have been nuts, but it’s not
Shovels – Smoke eases and becomes secondary to the juniper 7

– (clockwise from top left) Shovels, Grooben, Richard

BeerCast panel verdict
Thornbridge Kill Your Darlings 23/30
Tempest Unforgiven 22/30
Stewart Brewing Radical Road 21½/30
York Brewery Micklegate 20/30

  • Listen to the episode on Soundcloud here:

Please keep those comments and emails coming in, and check back next month for our next podcast – probably our mugh-hyped Black IPA special. Or we might find another load of beers to put out…stay tuned, and keep looking for those hidden meanings!

On the twiss in York

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…

Autumnal Ales

The concept of seasonality is now one of the hallmarks of modern cooking, pushed to the general public by the ranks of TV chefs and foodie magazines. Everything has a ‘time of year’, whether it’s the British asparagus, salty samphire, or humble mackerel (as one BeerCaster asked for in a fancy Edinburgh fishmonger’s, only to be embarrassed in front of a queue of shoppers when told there were none in the sea at that time of year). But can this approach be transferred to beer? Hops are seasonal, certainly, but after the harvest they can be dried and used at any time. It’s down to the styles and types of beer that can be varied depending on what the calendar says.

Now that Autumn is on us, it’s time to change the attitude and go for something different. The long summer (or in our case, short summer) is over, so the time for light hoppy pale ales is over. No need for urgent, tingling refreshment on a hot day now the clocks have gone back (or forward, as I put mine by mistake). Autumn brings crunchy leaves, darker nights, cool windy afternoons – and should be celebrated by the glorious British bitter. There can’t be another brewing nation on earth that can put out a finer nutty, foaming brown ale than us Brits – and now’s the time to partake.

So until the winter arrives and we all move on to warming stouts and porters, and then Christmas beers with alcohol and spice (before celebrating the return of Spring with zesty golden ales), take time out for a fruity, toffee-ish best bitter. Let the rich mouthfeel and malt characteristics reward you after that long Autumnal walk, or spot of Christmas Shopping (it’s never to early – and most breweries have online stores). Here are five choice Scottish beers for the season – Bitters, Ruby Ales, ESB’s, Amber Ales – all styles are well suited to this time of year. As we head towards November – have a seasonal beer on us.

1. Maverick (4.2%abv)
Fyne Ales, Cairndow, Argyll.
Classic fruity mahogany ale from BeerCast favourites Fyne Ales.

2. Red Kite (4.2%abv)
Black Isle Brewery, Munlochy, Black Isle.
Technically an amber ale, organically brewed north of Inverness.

3. Red Squirrel (3.9%abv)
Arran Brewery, Brodick, Isle of Arran.
Nutty, malty beer that donates to Red Squirrel charities on Arran.

4. St Magnus Ale (4.5%abv)
Highland Brewing Company, Swannay, Orkney.
Another nutty one, but with more roast than the Red Squirrel.

5. Red MacGregor (4.0%abv)
Sinclair Orkney Brewery, Quoyloo, Orkney.
Fruity ruby ale, current silver medal Champion Beer of Scotland.

(looking slightly further afield, five English beers that would go down very well on an Autumn evening are Bath Ales Barnstormer, York’s Yorkshire Terrier, Bristol Beer Factory No.7, Fuller’s ESB, and Daleside Old Leg Over).

Great British Ales?

Gift packs are a relatively new phenomenon in the real ale world – multipacks of beers on a theme for easy purchase in supermarkets. Either several beers showcasing one producer, or a mixed pack giving a selction, they serve as a safe bet for people willing to go above the usual randomly-chosen bottles for that real ale fan. But are they any good? One such gift set is Great British Ales, which consists of two beers from England and one each from Wales and Scotland. Unfortunate for real ale fans in Northern Ireland then – maybe a true British Ales selection could include one from somewhere like the Whitewater Brewery? Anyway, be that as it may, this particular pack features four ales – here’s the BeerCast’s verdict…

Black Dog 3.6%
Elgoods Brewery, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
“Our award-winning dark mild, full of roast malt flavour” says the back of the bottle – and we love an award-winning ale here on the BeerCast. A mild though? Our (admittedly limited) experience of that particular style of beer hasn’t been a good one until now. But Black Dog is really rather good. It is roasty, with a touch of the dreaded caramel and a dark molasses aftertaste – it’s almost like a shandy version of Theakston’s Old Peculier. It certainly has more taste than any of the milds I’ve had before – probably put together.

Fraoch Heather Ale 5.0%
Heather Ales Ltd, Alloa, Scotland
We’re no strangers to Fraoch, indeed it featured in our BeerCast #23 when we looked at beers with unusual added ingredients. It scored 50% that day – we’re immune to accusations of Scottish favoritism here – even though it is produced by the affable Williams Brothers, Bruce and Scott. Pronounced ‘fro-ik’, it has a “floral peaty aroma, full malt body, a spicy herbal flavour and a dry wine like finish” according to the label. There is a dryness there, but it couples with the floral taste from the heather really very well.

Double Dragon Ale 4.2%
Felinfoel Brewery, Llanelli
‘The National Ale of Wales’ according to the boast on the label, Felinfoel’s Double Dragon pours a rich dark brown and has a seriously malty aroma. This continues in the taste – malt malt malt all the way, with a sweetness at the end. It actually gets sweeter the more you have. This is in no way negative – it’s a very good brown ale, and certainly belongs in the pack due to the style. It gets a bonus for being named after a tremendous 80’s computer game, as well.

Spitfire 4.5%
Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent
Spitfire is also a British ale in the classic style, so no surprises to see it included in the selection. Amusingly it describes itself as ‘The Bottle of Britain’ – ho ho – yet it actually tastes pretty similar to the Double Dragon. Also a dark nutty brown colour, it has a consistent malty flavour. According to the tasting notes, a ‘generous aroma of tangy malt’ can be detected, and this is imparted on the taste as well – tangy is the word for this one. Average is another. It would be better if it was a bit stronger maybe, but it’s certainly drinkable.

Nothing stomach-churningly awful in the Great British Ales gift pack then – but what would we like to see in a similar set? We’re a British beer website after all. Despite my opening tirade, sadly we’ve yet to taste any beers from Northern Ireland so we’ll follow the country format of the original pack. Here are the BeerCast’s suggestions for a Great British Ales boxed set…

St Peter’s India Pale Ale 5.5%
St Peter’s Brewery, Suffolk
The first thing to package up is an IPA – just one of the many styles of beer we’ve given to the world. Admittedly several other countries have down a lot more with it since, but the 5%-ish India Pale Ale is one of the quintessential British beers. We’d be tempted to rock the boat with something like BrewDog’s Hardcore IPA, but as this is a mass-marketed boxed set, something classic like St Peter’s India Pale Ale, from Bungay in Suffolk. Hopped to survive lengthy voyages, it’s robust and really zesty.

Brains SA Gold 4.7%
Brains Brewery, Cardiff
Our Welsh offering is from the most successful brewery from the country – Brains. Their flagship beer is Brains SA, a dark coppery ale similar to Spitfire or Double Dragon (although none of the parties may appreciate the comparison). But they produce a fantastic golden ale which I enjoyed tremendously during a trip to the Welsh capital last year. Us Brits invented the golden ale – and pioneers like the wonderful Hop Back Summer Lightning and Exmoor’s Exmoor Gold are world-renowned. But they make great golden ales outside of the South West of England, too.

Yorkshire Terrier 4.2%
York Brewery, York
York Brewery was established in 1996 at the site of an old motorcycle showroom inside the city’s famous walls. Any foursome of ales from this part of the world has to include a premium best bitter – and Yorkshire Terrier certainly is that. Named after a small dog that used to be taken to work every day by it’s brewer owner, this one mixes well the lively hops and creamy malt. The Great British Ales set seems to be all about tradition, so there’s no chance we could put one out without a northern English bitter.

Dark Island 4.6%
Sinclair Brewery, Orkney
It would also be unforgivable to put out a best of British selection and not include a porter or a stout – and the very greatest exponent of that style is Sinclair Orkney Dark Island. Twice CAMRA Champion beer of Scotland, it’s an iconic standard bearer for traditional Scottish ales (their words, not mine). They never really refer to it as a porter, only a ‘very dark beer with a ruby tint’ – but however you pigeonhole it, Dark Island is wonderful. Chocolate, figs, dried fruit, it’s warming, malty and moreish, with hops on the finish. It’s at the very top of British beers.

BeerCast #20 – White Rose Beers

The BeerCast reaches the 20th podcast landmark today, and to celebrate we sample four beers from the county of the White Rose. Very different tipples from the last episode, as we move North away from the flowery golden ales and enter the realm of darker stuff. Firstly we begin with a classic session bitter from the region – the York Brewery’s Yorkshire Terrier. We follow that up with one of their maltier offerings, Centurion Ghost Ale, complete with suitably scary label. We then move a few dozen miles up the road to Harrogate and the Daleside Brewery. Their excellent IPA made it to our Beer of the Year show last January, so we had high hopes for their Daleside Porter and then Daleside Chocolate Stout, which we end the show with. On the panel this week with Richard and Shovels are welcome returns from MrB and John (neither of whom had ever tried a chocolate beer). Thanks again to Faye at the Daleside Brewery for their beers.

1. Yorkshire Terrier (4.2%abv)
The York Brewery, York.
500ml glass bottle

Both a working brewery and a guided tour attraction for visitors, the York Brewery was founded in 1996. It’s the only one within the city’s famous walls, and when opened in a converted motorbike showroom it became the first beer producer in York for more than forty years. They have a 20 barrel brewplant and an onsite bar for eighty people, giving guided tours for £6 a time, which includes a free half of one of their finest at the beginning and one at the end. They also own three pubs in the city – the Three Legged Mare, the Last Drop and the Yorkshire Terrier, named after their flagship beer.

What They Say“A premium bitter with a rich, creamy malt and full hop palate finish.” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – Damn it’s good 8
Richard – It’s a very nice, drinkable, Northern bitter
Shovels – A tasty session beer, although nicer on cask
John – Refreshing without being too strong, very moreish 7

2. Centurion Ghost Ale (5.4%abv)
The York Brewery, York.
500ml glass bottle

What They Say“A warming, dark bitter ale, with a roasted malt taste. Very easy to drink for it’s strength.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Dark roasty taste yet it’s easy to drink
MrB – Could be a session ale – but you’d hurt in the morning 6
John – Smells great but tastes a bit iffy, not that impressed 5
Shovels – Burnt malty taste that lingers at the top of the mouth 5

3. Daleside Porter (4.4%abv)
Daleside Brewery, Harrogate.
500ml glass bottle

The Daleside Brewery were founded in the mid-1980’s in the genteel North Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate. They moved to their current location in 1992, and produce three cask and seven bottled beers, using over 18 different types of hops in their varying brews. Their IPA featured in BeerCast #3, waaaay back in August 2007, and did rather well.

What They Say“Brewed exclusively for export, Daleside Porter is distinctively dark in colour, full of body with a smooth velvet finish.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – It brings a little sparkle to the eyes 7
MrB – A bit less smoky than the Centurion maybe
Richard – Carbonation spoils the smooth velvet finish
John – Slightly better than the last one, but not remarkable 6

4. Daleside Chocolate Stout (4.0%abv)
Daleside Brewery, Harrogate.
500ml glass bottle

What They Say“Aroma of cocoa and coffee, hints of tar, wood and leather. Creamy mouthfeel. The flavour is dominated by cocoa/chocolate, also notes of coffee, brown bread and burnt caramel, a little fruit too.” [Oxford Bottled Beer Database]

What We Say
John – Would be a good after dinner beer, it’s nice and warming 7
Shovels – Tastes more coffee than chocolate but I quite like it 7
MrB – It’s particularly good, the nicest dark beer tonight 7
Richard – The three malts mix detract from the chocolate taste 5

BeerCast panel verdict

Yorkshire Terrier – 30/40
Daleside Porter – 26/40
Daleside Chocolate Stout – 26/40
Centurion Ghost Ale – 22½/40

Panellists – (from top left) MrB, John, Richard, Shovels



We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with episode 21, the BeerCast’s first foray into the world of American beer! Stay tuned for details on our USA craft beer special…and please leave us comments on the blog or iTunes, or emails. Cheers!