York’s been in the beer-press a fair old bit of late; mostly due to the opening of the long-anticipated York Tap. Joining the likes of The House of Trembling Madness and Pivni as representing the higher-end scale of Beer in York, the York Tap is certainly as welcome addition to the York drinking scene. With that much choice on offer, how could it not be? However, it’s worth remembering what’s made York a top-class Beer destination for the last god-knows-how-many years.
Pure, simple, honest Pubs, Alehouses, Taverns and Inns – open fires, mock-Tudor exteriors and swinging pub signs; dark corners for husbands and dads to claim respite whilst daughters and wives shop amongst The Shambles; Yorkshire slate floors and Steak & Ale pies with chunky chips and molten fillings. Invitingly frothy pints from the likes of Theakston’s, Rooster’s, Black Sheep and – of course – York Brewery.
Now owned by Mitchell’s , and having recently undergone somewhat of an angular, modern rebranding, York have been steadily pumping out decent beers since they began, filling pubs such as The Yorkshire Terrier and The Last Drop Inn with the likes of perennial favourites Guzzler and Centurion’s Ghost. Early on in the year, the Micklegate range appeared – one-offs to celebrate their first 15 years of brewing.
Micklegate Porter was delicious, a really biscuity, mahogany-ruby affair with echoes of woodsmoke in the nose. There was a Ginger, too, which I missed. However, on a trip to York a few weeks back we (Dean Pugh and I) swung by the Brewery for a pint of Humbug (the current seasonal; a sumptuously thick, heady dark mild with more than a hint of liquorice lurking within) when we picked up a bottle of the simply-titled Micklegate. Dean urged me to buy two, and I was happy to oblige.
It’s lovely – and perfect for this time of year. It pours Ruby, and there’s a Marmalade-heavy nose with some depth underneath; Raisin, perhaps. On the sip there’s a firm, robust, Caramel note, and then a surprisingly high, juicy bitterness which rears up just at the end to wash the sweetness away. It’s rich, entirely quaffable and dangerously warming; an enitrely different taste for a York beer.
York may not set many tongues wagging but their presence on bars throughout Yorkshire is a comforting one. Beers like Centurion’s Ghost, the super, super easy-going Centennial and the definitive-sessioner Guzzler are beers that survive fads, and will go on providing both refreshment and fortification for years to come. There might not be much Micklegate around now, but if you see it, pick one up and raise a glass to one of the region’s most popular brewing outfits.