Category Archives: beer in yorkshire

Sunbeam Ales

Last month’s post about Homebrewing certainly drew a response, both on WordPress and on Twitter. There’s a genuinely good feeling about homebrewing (or Amateur Brewing, if you like) at the moment, whether you are simply enjoying doing it yourself and getting close to the process, or whether you simply think that knowledge is power – and that’s all good.

The likes of Nigel Poustie’s Sunbeam Ales should serve as another success story in that case. Walking on a path previously tread by Rodham’s and Five Towns Brewery, he’s managed to get his beers on the shelves of Beer-Ritz from his house in Leeds. I can imagine that sharing shelf – space with Leeds Brewery, SummerWine (another brewery borne of avid Homebrewing) and Ilkey feels pretty sweet. Under the Sunbeam moniker, his beers have a rustic, simple charm and – most importantly – are pretty damn tasty.

Picking up an armful, I went with a wild card in Honey & Lavender (4.9%abv), purely to set a benchmark. Although popular, I’ve never really been that enamoured with Honey in beer; it misfires so often – brewers failing to get any of that essence of Honey’s flavour into the beer without making an over-dry or sickly mess. Add Lavender and …well, it could end in tears.

I close my eyes. I gulp.

It’s delicious. Really, it is. Not only does this straw-coloured Pale Ale carry genuine Lavender notes in the nose, there’s definate sweet Honey in there; lifting the whole beer with a floral, wildflower note that’s pretty arresting. There’s a hint of root ginger in there too, with a fresh, lemon-rind tinged finish. Refreshing and packed with flavour, the whole package leaps out of the glass like a Yorkshire Saison or Biere De Garde; but one unlike any I’ve tasted. It’s been a while since a beer surprised me like this.

Next up, Extra Special Ale (5.2%abv) ; a style that I always like to see and appreciate a solid version of; and that’s what I get. A deliciously tawny colour, with a tan head and a slight echo of chocolate in the nose and body, the beer is nutty and moreish; my tasting notes say ‘Malt Loaf’, and as an overall picture, that’s not far off. Drinking this made me wish I had a cheese board to hand.

Sunseeker IPA (5.7%abv)  was my least favourite of the trio; a good-looking beer with burnished gold notes and a really intriguing nose of Pear Drops and Citrus; but those notes didn’t really translate to the taste of the beer. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a really drinkable IPA, but a bit of a let-down after the promise of the nose.

One theme that all of Nigel’s beers had was body; a rich, robust body that is often missed in Homebrew, such is the focus these days  on a beer’s aroma (if you ask me, obviously). Sunbeam’s Ales are a real treat, and I wish Nigel luck in the future. I, for one, will be buying more of his wares.

Check out Sunbeam’s Website for more info, and you can read other reviews of Nigel’s beers from Ghostie and Simon O’Hare here.

All Roads Lead North

...Just a quick plug for an interview I’ve done with John, Christian and Matt of North Bar to celebrate their first 15 years in business, and looking forward to the next 15. They’ve got a busy summer ahead, trust me.

It’s over on Culture Vulture, as part of the ‘Tavern Tales’ section that I edit and write for from time to time. If you have any ideas for features on pubs history, stories or anecdotes, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. My email’s on my profile page above.

Hope you enjoy it.



>Ilkley Brewery Launch


It’s hard to believe Ilkley’s Stewart Ross when he tells me it’s almost two years to the week that the idea of Ilkley Brewing Co. was formed to this day; when a spanking new 20 barrel brewery is formally opened.

That just goes to show the incredible leaps Ilkley have made since then. By brewing a strong core range of traditional, yet tasty beers supplemented by popular seasonals, Ilkley have somehow managed to become part of the Yorkshire beer scenery – but in a good way. The new brewery is pretty much like every new brewery around these days; functional and modern, clean and efficient; but based on the conversations I’ve had this morning it’s the vision of the brewers that maketh the beer. As we chewed the fat over a half of Ilkley Best, Black Summit, a Dark IPA in very much the modern style, sits glowering in the end fermenter.

The launch was a successful one; a few speeches by the Mayor and Chris Ives, and then onto the beer, conversation and awesome Pork Pies supplied by that Ilkley institution, Lishman’s Butchers (one was not enough, let me say…). You know, you can’t go much wrong with a pint of Best and a just-warm Pork Pie…

..Anyway, I digress. Looking across the bar, it’s easy to say Ilkley brew straight-ahead drinkers; be it the Cascade-laced, multi-award-winning Mary Jane, or the malt-driven but well-bittered Best. However, that’s to do the term a disservice; fact is, Ilkley’s beers are full of flavour and more often than not, hop-led (although not in the US style). Ilkley Pale is coming on strong; straw-hued, lemony on the nose and dry in the finish; . The sort of Blonde that makes one wish the onset of spring would hurry the hell up. Ilkley Black remains a Dark Mild in the truest sense; rich and moreish without being too heavy on the palate.

I’m sure Ilkley will expand further; their beers have already reached pretty much every part of the land – and given that my conversation with Stewart encompassed drinking in Cask, The Rake, the qualities of Nelson Sauvin and Kernel’s beers, I really don’t think that ‘levelling out’ is in Ilkley’s vocabulary. Regardless of whether you view Ilkley Brewery as a ‘traditional’ brewer or not, I can safely predict you’ll find at least one beer of theirs that you’ll like in 2011.

Ilkley will be holding various ‘Meet The Brewer’ events throughout April in Wetherspoons, Foley’s and Market Town Taverns. Do pop along. And it was also a pleasure to chat with Spike of The Narrow Boat, and The Ilkley Beer Fest chaps. Until next time…

>Beer-Braised Sausages


This is a recipe from Nigel Slater, master of slow-cooked richness. It was in the Sunday papers over Christmas and when it occurred to me that I had never beer-braised sausages, it was time to try – and one to share with those of you that may have missed it. It’s one of those dishes that just takes a little preparation, but once it’s in the oven it sits there happily whilst you finish off the beer. As usual, the results depend on the quality of the sausages that you buy so choose wisely (and locally, if possible)! And of course, who can resist dumplings on top to mop up all that beery gravy?
1. Heat your oven to 175c
2. In a pan, brown the sausages on all sides and then set aside.
3. In the meantime, chop a handful of Mushrooms and two Red Onions. Sweat these down in a little olive oil and a generous knob of butter, either in a pan or the casserole dish if it goes on the hob. If the mushrooms soak up the butter, add some more.
4. Sprinkle a little flour on the mushrooms and red onions, coat, and then add a tin of peeled plum tomatoes – not chopped. Stir and simmer, then add half a pint of beer. Stir and season with plenty of black pepper, a little sage and a little salt.
5. Pour this into your casserole pot, stick the sausages in, pop the lid on and place in the oven.
6. Make your dumplings according to packet instructions and then plop on top of the casserole for the final 30 minutes. For the last five, take the lid off and let them brown on top. I actually cheat and switch to ‘Grill’ mode at this point!

Ok – cooking times. Well, it’s up to you. The casserole will be ok as long as there is gravy in the pot, I would say one hour minimum; but you could probably double that – your sauce will get richer. Just try it out and see how long suits you.Beer-wise you need to be going for darker beers; I personally used London Porter brewed for M&S by Meantime (5.5%abv) on this occasion, but I’ve since had good results with Cain’s Dragon Heart. I think that the darker malts add sweetness and a decent alcoholic edge to proceedings; there’s no point using beer unless you want to retain the nuances of it in the finished dish.

>Roosters Oxymoronic Black IPA


…So we’re finishing off this little Roosters week with Oxymoronic Black IPA, weighing in at 6.5% abv. With this brew, Rooster’s have chosen to go 100% with Simcoe hops, both in the kettle and in the dry-hopping. Looking black in the glass but turning deep red when held to the light, there’s a woody note in the nose alongside a bitter-orange pithiness. That might sound odd, but it’s actually quite pleasant after the aroma-riots of the last two beers.

It’s still smooth, but the slight roasted-malt note running through the body does distract me a little, personally. There’s a drying, coffee-led note just lingering on the back there, which is not what I expect from an IPA. I did warm to it as the bottle emptied, but the initial reaction to this was a little ‘well….that’s interesting’. And I think that’s my overall feeling about Oxymoronic. Interesting. Not a bad beer – far from it – just not what I expected, and I’m not completely sold on it.

Overall, I’ve been really impressed with this new threesome from Rooster’s. If these were bottled more often I’m sure they would sell, and I’d love to see the APA in particular available widely – a fantastic beer and my pick of the bunch. I also commend the (moderately) low abv’s on these beers. They are meant for sharing, savouring and enjoying. I did all that.

>Rooster’s XS American Pale Ale


I’ve kicked off the New Year by picking up some of these limited-run beers by Rooster’s. Two Pales and a Black IPA, so nothing in the same ballpark of experimentation as Pumpkin Ale or Jasmine IPA but as we’ve said numerous times before, Rooster’s don’t bottle often so it’s worth picking these up. Plus, Christmas and the New Year deserves special beers, eh?
So – XS American Pale up first. Deep amber in colour, those extra darker malts in the grain bill give a lovely, sweet backbone for the hops to sit on top of. Chinook, Simcoe, Crystal, Riwaka and hop du jour Citra have all been flung into this brew, so as you can imagine, the aroma is incredible. Gooseberry, Pineapple, Lychee, and (if I can get a bit Oz Clarke for a second) cut grass all vie for attention. Lovely. On the sip, it’s smooth (I suspect from the toch of wheat that’s present), fresh, and juicy – not dry at all – and weighing in at 5.5%abv makes XS APA quite simply an excellent, quaffable Pale Ale. It is sweet, don’t get me wrong, but it’s balanced perfectly and in excellent condition too – lively and vibrant.
I’ll let you know what I thought of the others as the week unwinds.
Edit – It’s not just me that rates it – here’s what Hopzine thought….

Leeds Brewery Gyle 479

Leeds Brewery have created a one-off beer for the seasonal period, Gyle 479. It’s an itteresting point in itself that Leeds have created a special like this; despite being incredibly popular in Leeds (thier popular, rapidly-expanding Pub portfolio serving as a case in point), they do normally keep things simple and straighahead – a strong core portfolio of beers with now-regular seasonals.
So, is this foray into experimentation any good?
In short, yes.
For some reason I assumed it would be a stout-esque beer, but it’s not; Venkatesh (Head Brewer) described it more as a ‘Vintage Ale’, and he’s spot on. The base beer was brewed in the summer, and then matured in Bruichladdich Whisky Casks until now.
Sitting in the brewery, all neatly in a row, the Casks certainly impose. Cask-ageing of beer is the perfect flavour profile for this time of year, and I’m at a loss to even begin to explain the variances of taste that every single cask can add to a uniform base beer. The beer itself pours a rich mahogany colour; when held to the light there’s a lovely plummy red hue shining through. There’s some estery fruity-yeastiness going on in the nose, alongside a subtle vanilla note that you’d expect from a cask-aged beer, and a slightly smoky, treacle-like sweetness underpinning the whole thing.
Gyle 479 is smooth; and very easy to drink. Rounded sweetness, full of cherry and sultana, turns slightly spicier as the sip finishes, and that finish is unexpectedly dry – which makes it surprisingly moreish.
Very seasonal, Gyle 479 is a lovely beer, and I’m happy to see Leeds experimenting a little more like this. Venkatesh certainly seems very proud of his creation – and so he should be. It would seem that Leeds don’t plan to let the casks sit idle, so I’ll be keeping an eye out in the future. If you’re thinking about cracking one open to eat with lunch over the yuletide period, I could’nt help but think that a nice slab of rare beef with horseradish would be a match made in heaven for it; in fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that that’s exactly what I’m going to do. It’s available from The Brewery, Beer-Ritz (Headingley), or Latitude Wines in Leeds.
Thanks again to Venkatesh, Sam and Michael to taking time out of their busy day to speak to me yesterday. Hopefully next time I come over it’ll be warmer out, and my feet won’t be frozen!

>A Chat With Revolutions Brewing Co.


It’s not often that concept – rather than the beer – hooks me into a new brewery, but when I landed on the Revolutions Brewing Co site via Twitter a few weeks ago, I found myself reading every page on there.. I liked Mark and Andy’s attitude so much that I contacted them for a quick chat. Plus, anyone who listens to Interpol, The Smiths, Decemberists and The National when brewing automatically becomes ‘my kind of people’.
Leigh: How did you guys meet? Andy: We met in 2008 at a business seminar. It was quickly obvious we had a number of shared interests, particularly cricket, beer and music. We have managed to combine two of these in our brewery theme. The requirement to get up early on brew days is currently hampering our efforts to stay up late and listen to the Ashes coverage! I worked for 15 years as a transport planning consultant latterly concentrating on demand forecasting work for train companies. It was varied and interesting work but there comes a time when spreadsheets and macro-economic models no longer quite generate the passion. I’ve travelled quite a bit over the years and seeking out local brews and learning the local word for beer is top of my list of travelling tips.
Mark: Formerly I worked as a Quality Systems Consultant, most notably in the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain, where I was an advisor to their Government. Contrary to common opinion, alcohol is widely available, but 14 years of getting by on draught Heineken / Amstel and cans of Boddingtons / Tetley’s made the all too rare trips to pubs on holidays in Britain a great treat!

How did you get into Brewing?
Mark: Since my return to the UK in 2008, I’ve been more a consumer of beer than a brewer. I have a little experience of kit brewing and recently full mash brewing, but fortunately Andrew has long been a keen home brewer. Andrew: I’ve been home-brewing for over 20 years and for the past 4-5 years full mash brewing in what has become known as the Headingley nano-brewery. I went on the Brewlab introduction to brewing course in 2007 and the idea for the micro-brewery took shape there – it just took 3 years for the theme to come together!

So what, or who, inspires you to brew?
Mark: We are inspired to brew by the prospect of providing pleasure to beer drinkers. There really is nothing more to it than that. Andrew: Whilst totally agreeing with Mark’s comment, I’d add that for me the idea of bringing in ideas from other countries – beer styles and ingredients – is quite inspiring. I feel that there is far too little coverage given to beer choice and style in the quality press and I will feel very satisfied if we can do our bit to broaden the appeal of craft beer/real ale in the UK.
Tell us about your beers, then…Our beers are inspired by and make reference to music through the ages, with our core “Original” beers being named 33, 45 and 78. Primarily however, our beers will be inspired by post punk and new wave music. We feel there are parallels between this music and modern craft brewing – both have changed the landscape of their respective fields. We hope to contribute in a small way to continuing this. We’re particularly keen to have dark beers available regularly as it is a style we both enjoy and we believe there is ample scope for interesting experimentation.
Beer Geek time – What’s your ‘Desert Island’ Beer? Mark: Having lived on a desert island for 14 years, I can honestly say I always looked forward to a Timothy Taylor’s Landlord on my return to the UK for a holiday. Now having returned permanently, it is rare that I pass on a Thornbridge Jaipur or an Acorn Gorlovka if they’re on the bar. The beer that sticks in my mind as the best I’ve tasted in 2010 would be My Antonia by Birra del Borgo / Dogfish Head. It’s rather rare though, so to take a whole cask of it to my desert island might be construed as rather selfish. Andrew: The first beer I can remember drinking outside the UK and falling in love with was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It will always be a favourite. Here in the UK, I too think Acorn Gorlovka is pretty special and in the past few months as Mark and I have been engaged in some serious ‘research’, Dark Star Hophead and Grainstore Rutland Panther have both registered strongly with me.
How are things going so far then? Good feedback?
It’s being launched this week. We live in hope! What we can say is that the trial brews we’ve done at home have gone down very well with friends so we’re optimistic that we’ll get a similar reaction when our commercial brews hit the pumps.
Where can we get our hands on your wares in the next few months?
This week we are launching at The Shoulder of Mutton, Castleford. Also available in York, Huddersfield, Wakefield, elsewhere in Castleford and around Halifax. Once the winter relents we expect to have it in Leeds, Sheffield, Pontefract and Doncaster before Christmas.
Revolutions Brewing Co Launch event is on Thursday evening (9th Dec) at The Shoulder of Mutton in Castleford from 7.30pm though their beers will be on for most of the day. Music will come courtesy of harpist Fiona-Katie Roberts from 8.30pm. Do check out thier website and blog for the full lowdown on thier range and the ethos behind them.

>Black Sheep’s Porter; Copper Dragon’s Three Kings and Stouty Ham Besides…


I’ve been watching the progress of Black Sheep’s Wooly Jumper Porter (4.0abv) for a good month or so now; simply due to the fact that they don’t brew seasonals, specials, or one-offs all that often. Thanks to the wonder of Twitter I found out that Veritas in Leeds has snagged some, so I trudged through the snow on Tuesday to sample it. I’m glad I did. It’s a great beer; although I must admit, I didn’t really know what to expect. However, I’m pleased to report that Black Sheep have done a really good job. When held up to the light there’s a lovely red hue coming through the black, as all good porters should have (if you ask me).

Through the tan collar there’s not a great deal going on in the nose apart from some lovely woody smokiness; which sort of sets you up for a sweet beer – but it’s not. There’s a little almond-biscuityness in there, the aforementioned hint of woodsmoke, and a nice, dry bite at the end. Kudos to Veritas, too – the pint was in tip-top condition too – very clean, very moreish. All in all, it’s a really good beer, and one that I hope Black Sheep sell enough of to make it a regular; I think it would be a valuable new addition to their tried and tested, familiar range. Give it a try if you see it about.

Another of the ‘bigger’ Yorkshire brewers who are adding a new seasonal offering to their range is Copper Dragon, who have rolled out Three Kings Ale across Yorkshire this week. I’ve not tried it yet, but I hear it’s inspired by German Altbier and Red Ales rather than the usual ‘Christmas Pudding in a Glass’ efforts. It sounds good and certainly worth a try, so if anyone hears of any being spotted around my manor, give me a shout. Finally, staying in Yorkshire, I’ve been told Lishman’s Butchers of Ilkley have cured one of their Christmas Hams in Ilkley’s Stout this year – so if you’re up that way (visiting Booth’s, perhaps?), then drop in and see if they’ve got any left.

>Summer Wine Brewery Visit


One of the disavantages of working full-time is that sometimes I simply can’t spare the time to do beery, bloggy things that seem like a lot more fun than work. One such occasion arose a couple of weeks back when Dean Pugh, of (Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House fame) texted me to tell me that he was going to see Summer Wine Brewery, and would I like to join him? Well, Dean, yes. Yes I would. But I can’t. Work beckons. After shaking my fists in the air for a good five minutes along with a stream of cuss-words that would make Kenny Powers blush, I asked him if he’d be as kind as to provide a report of the day to share, and he duly obliged, along with some pictures. So I will hand over to Dean….

…Having been informed that my choice of day to visit happened to be brew day for Brew #6, the final instalment of the highly successful Project 6 IPA series, I hurried over to Honley, the home of Summer Wine Brewery. After rushing through my morning errands and paying a visit to the Head of Steam on Huddersfield train station where I enjoyed a pint of Brass Monkey Bitter, I awaited my connecting train. The brewery was a bit tricky to find; it’s a small site which they are fast outgrowing and is tucked away at the back of an industrial estate. Unfortunately Google Maps let me down slightly and a quick phone call was needed. I arrived just in time to witness the late hopping of Brew #6, which was described to me as a West-Coast style American IPA, higher in IBU’s than the previous 5 in the series using a blend of hops, such as Chinook and Centennial to name but a few. There’s also a little Crystal malt to give the beer a little more body and sweetness to balance the hops, as was done successfully in Brew #5 (my favourite so far). I was offered the chance to do the late hopping myself but thought it best to leave it to the professionals and just grab a snap or two instead…!

With the wort then cooling, James (head brewer) and Andy (managing director) took a well deserved break to chat with me all things beer; how they have found their first 2 years as brewers and the future of Summer Wine Brewery. I knew brewing was hard work, but stories of racking through the night and Andy having not left the brewery for 4 days to complete orders I quickly realised how dedicated these guys were to their passion. They tell me that those days are in the past now, but with plans to move to a bigger site and an increase in brewing capacity there is no chance of them sitting back and taking it easy any time soon.

Discussion turned to their beers (a Teleporter was quickly put in front of me, followed by Project 6 Brew #2) and plans for future brews, including the next experiment following Project 6 and some extremely exciting plans for 2011. I’m not about to steal their thunder though, I will let James and Andy break the news to you at our ‘Meet the Brewer’ night with them on October 27th. However I can say that Mr Foley’s will be featuring as much of these as possible.
Our chat was briefly interrupted when it was time to run off the Brew #6 wort to the conditioning tank and yet more hops were added for dry hopping. I also witnessed a fermenting brew of Treacle Stout, as you can see the addition of Dark Treacle to the brew sends the yeast on a bit of a sugar rush!

As we compared tasting notes on beers from many US and UK brewers, both James and Andy’s passion and love of quality beers was obvious as I stood like a sponge trying to take in as much knowledge as possible. As if my magic a bottle of 5am Saint appeared as I listed the Brewdog beers I had yet to try, and plans were made for us to meet up again to continue our chat – but this time in the comfort of a pub, and when Andy doesn’t have to cycle home!A thoroughly enjoyable day was rounded of with an evening at Huddersfield CAMRA Oktoberfest beer festival where Fernandes Rum For Cover (6.5% specialty ale) was the pick of the 6 I sampled.

….Thanks mate. Andy and James will be at Foley’s this Wednesday evening (27th) from 18.00 onwards, where you’ll be able to have a chat with them and sample some of their excellent beers – including the last hurrah of the P6 IPA series, and thier Portcullis ESB. Get yourself down there – I met them both on Saturday, shared a beer or 6, and can confirm they are both ‘top lads’, as we say in Yorkshire.

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