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Going For Gold With Saltaire Brewery

I spent a good few hours in the more-than-pleasant company of Tony, Ade and Ewen of Saltaire Brewery last night; gamely gulping Saltaire Gold – their first foray into Kegging. It also gave me a chance to cast a critical eye over their shiny new rebrand.

I don’t need much persuasion to visit Saltaire these days. Tony Gartland has built Saltaire into a brewery that not only produces some of the most consistent beers around, but also has a wealth of brewing knowledge within its ranks to crank out some pretty special…er, specials when time allows. More of that later. First up, Saltaire Gold.

Pretty much a sister to the now-ubiquitous Saltaire Blonde, Gold sits at a keen 4% abv and is utterly drinkable. Much cleaner and crisper than Blonde – probably due to the method of dispense as much as the recipe – Gold comes across more like a lager than a blonde ale; all freshly-grassy aroma and bold, brassy malt. It’s also very ‘Saltaire’ to get a beer like this into a keg rather than something heavy or strong – IPA, for example.

If it’s as popular as Blonde is around these parts then it’ll be interesting to see how it goes – a potential challenger to the ‘big lagers’? Perhaps. I hope so. Anyway, keep an eye out for it – although it’s currently only on at Don’t Tell Titus in Saltaire.

Of course, it would have been rude to not sample a few of the other treats on the brewery bar as well – purely for research purposes, obviously. New World Red (5.2%) is an excellent little pint – ruddy of complexion and thick with rich, vinous malt; all topped off with a peppery, faintly citrus nose. It drinks nowhere near its strength, and should be appearing soon on bar-tops. This early version got the thumbs up from me, so I’ll be seeking it out when tweaked and rolled out across Yorkshire. Good work, Ade.

Another excellent special that gets nowhere near the credit it deserves is the delicious South Island Pale . This 3.5% abv cracker is a joy to see on the bar, and fresh from the brewery it’s near-sublime. Pale as you like, with an elegant, smooth body, it finishes high and dry; crisp and long and long and long...bursting with Gooseberry, Lemon Peel and Grape flavour. As a NZ-inspired Pale Ale, it sits up there with Thornbridge’s Wild Swan, Brodie’s Kiwi and Rooster’s Wild Mule. Perfectly sessionable, I think it’s about time this gem got some credit.

The night also gave me a chance to cast a critical eye over Saltaire’s rebrand. I love it, personally; the new badges look enough like the old ones to not lose any of the presence that Saltaire have built up over the years – but pulls them into a much more modern prism. The rebrand feels honest – a genuine feel that the existing art had become a bit dated, a sweeping away of the cobwebs, so to speak – as opposed to cynically twisting things around to appeal to another audience and jump on whatever bandwagon is rolling by at the time. Surely that’s how you do a rebrand, isn’t it? Simple, really.

Tony and the gang are over the moon with how the new artwork looks – and so they should be. Good work, Saltaire, good work.

>Cask vs Keg vs Bottle vs Can

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The Session: It’s like a Royal Rumble of dispense.
This argument has been rumbling on for a while, and I doubt that I’m going to add anything meaningful to it apart from my own point of view. However, seeing as though one of my favourite blogs, Reluctant Scooper is hosting the session, I thought I’d wade in. Hey, that’s what the blog’s for, so here goes.
Firstly – Bottle vs Can. Along with the true identity of Jack the Ripper, or why people ever rated Rafa Benitez, one of the true mysteries of life is why brewers put beer in clear glass bottles. It simply makes for a badly-kept beer, and one that tastes, no matter what beer it is, like all other beers in clear glass. Skunky. Harsh. Oxidised. Yuck. In the grand scheme of things, putting beer into cans holds no great pain for me; I’ve tried a few average US Pale Ales in cans and enjoyed not only the novelty, but the taste of the beer too. Some purists argue that the can taints the beer; let’s get glass right first, eh? Bring on Canning, I say. My view will stay that way until I drink a beer that’s genuinely been ruined by canning – the process, that is.

As for Keg…well, I have to agree with what Zak says in so much as that I’d like to think it’s horses for courses; some beers suit being Keg-Dispensed, some not so. The turning point for me was when I took a trip to Edinburgh in 2009 and enjoyed a pint of BrewDog 77 Lager on cask at The Abbotsford. Lovely it was; but at the time – for the first time, I might add – that flash of ‘might be better served in Keg’ came across my mind. Since then, there have been many beers that I’ve enjoyed on Keg, and those that I wish I had enjoyed on Keg – such as SummerWine’s Project 6 IPA series. I know Andy and James are pro-Keg, but I really believe this. Powerful, aromatic beers that do well slightly colder are great on Keg, as are excellent lagers such as all-time-fave Moravka and, more recently, Thornbridge Italia. Foley’s Brewdog tap and North’s constant Keg presence means we are sorted in Leeds, and The Grove (Huddersfield) unashamedly flaunts Keg as a dispense system for their US range; and that’s not even mentioning BrewDog Aberdeen’s all-Keg lineup. It’s popular, and that’s just here. When I open the West Coast Good Beer Guide, and am flicking the pages, gazing upon row upon row of Keg taps, I’m slightly romanced by it. It’s not a fad, and there’s no need to be scared of it. It’s just another option.
Old Peculier from the wood? Stouts, lush, velvety Porters, fruity Ales and Brown Ales? Give me cask. Summer Ales, Weiss, Wits and Pales at a Summer Barbecue? Chill those bottles. The best dispense system for any beer is surely the one that suits it the most.
…By the way, if you’ve got the Good Beer US West Coast, flick to Page 97 and check out the Maiden Publick House. That’s what I dream of: a bar in woods, with neon signs in the window and a shitload of great beer. If I win the lottery, that’s what I’m buying. You’re all invited.
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