Another part of our (hopefully) year-long video project, A Year of Beer. looking at the idea of beer and seasonality - how different styles of beer are more appropriate to different seasons, weathers, festivals and so on. There will also be a bit of beer and food matching thrown in because, hell, we love to eat as much as we love to drink.
This week: Old Bear Yorkshire Day Ale & Samuel Smiths Yorkshire Stingo
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Old Bear Yorkshire Day Ale & Samuel Smith's Yorkshire Stingo
Yorkshire Day, like so many of our favourite festivals now stripped of their original meeting, originated as a protest against local government's re-arrangement of the historic Ridings of Yorkshire. The three ridings (North, East and West) were traditionally formed administrative areas, each with a strong individual identity. With the stroke of a pen in 1974, all this was changed. No wonder they protested. The first protest was on August 1st 1975, the date a nod to both the Battle of Minden (in the Seven Years War), where many of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry fell, and also to the abolition of slavery on that date in 1833. Verily, the good folk of Yorkshire choose their causes well.
The Old Bear brewery make a range of 8 or so beers, from pale session beers all the way through to the startling Duke of Bronte Capstan FS at 12%abv. I find their beers to be tricksy little beauties; when on song, they can be complex, exciting and unique, but if not perfect, then I find them to be disjointed and odd. Owner-brewer Ian Cowling concedes that they have had problems with their bottled beer, and his response (in typical Yorkshire no-nonsense fashion) was to buy a bottling line and do it himself. More power to his elbow, then.
I have to say I was a little worried about how their Yorkshire Day beer would fare, or rather what I would make of it. When it was handed to me, it was warm to the touch, having spent many hours in a hot car. Clear glass is always a risk, as the beer can get "lightstruck", and the hop aroma compounds develop an offputting "skunky" note. Happily, this beer was about as good as it could be. A little whiff of sourness, some smoke, but otherwise, bright hops and a little biscuit malt predominate. Their trademark phenolic smokiness shows through in the finish. I must call Ian and find out if they use a little smoked malt; it would seem likely
Sam Smith's Yorkshire Stingo is a slightly different proposition. Really, it needs a long walk over cold hills to prepare you for it. From the pin-brightness of the beer to the classy malt fruitiness, the burnished wood flavours and the bittersweet finish, everything about this screams class. Launched recently on an unsuspecting public, this demonstrates why Smith's are a brewery that have influenced many; they just get on and produce great beers without any hoopla. The head brewer experimented, many beers were tried, but when he proclaimed one effort the best beer he'd ever drunk, that was the beer that was chosen. Famously reticent about their behind-the-scenes activity, Smith's say only that it is aged for some time in wood casks (dependent on atmospheric conditions), and then refermented in bottle, the whole process taking about a year to complete. It is designed to be drunk on release, and has a relatively short date stamped on it. They believe that their beers taste better when they are fresh. I have to agree.
You might want to look out for my profile of the brewery in September issue of Beer of the World magazine.