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.
Last night those merry pranksters from Camden Town Brewery braved the whippets, flat caps and increasingly-chilly-weather to bring a handful of their beers to The York Tap. Actually, it was a little more than that – it was the first time all their range have appeared outside London.
The York Tap proved to be a great host. Spacious yet bustling, as the light faded and the fires glowed, we got stuck into the beers. The main draw for me (and many others, it would seem was Camden Ink (4.4%abv). Kegged stout seems to be the style to nail at the moment – try Ilkley’s Fortis Stout for another example – and it doesn’t disappoint. Jet-black and with a decent aroma of woodsmoke and coffee (Given it’s served colder than cask), it slips down way too easily. Unfussy but entirely flavourful, Ink’s a great addition to the Camden’s pale-centric range.
Showboat Brown Ale (4.5%abv, Cask) was another beer that proved to be entirely too easy-going for it’s own good. Sweet and moreish, the US-style Brown Ale ruby beer is dominated by Caramel, Toffee and Biscuity malt, with a flourish of fresh, floral hops at the end. Fans of Brooklyn Brown and Sam Adams should give this home-grown effort a try next time they see it on. It had me longing for a Hot-Dog or some Fried Chicken, and this is no bad thing at all.
Bleeding Hops IPA (6.4%abv) was a surprise; mainly due to it’s darker (Bloody?) hue. I expected a pale citrus-grenade, but what I got instead was a rich, flavourful beer that did carry enough Tropical-fruit and Citrus hop charcter in the nose and the end of the sip to satisfy hop-heads. Gentlemen’s Wit (4.3%abv) provided a hazy, pale Lemon-sherbert refresher, and made me pine for the Sun. Wit’s not a style you see a lot of English Breweries doing often; and Camden have nailed one here. Sure, it’s unfussy, but tasty, clean and refreshing.
In fact, that seems to the the tie that binds all of Camden’s beers. Even the stronger ones remain incredibly easy to drink, and Jasper and his crew certainly know how to hide alcohol. The range is bold, modern and moreish; I love the fact that Ink is 4% abv. There’s so many tasty stronger beers out there, you almost expect it to be a one-glass affair. It’s nice to be able to go to a pub and have more than one of a beer, especially if it’s a tasty one.
It wasn’t just Camden that the YT was serving up. Fyne’s Jarl was in stunning form – a perfect explosion of fresh Grapefruit to revive the weary traveller and kegged Cantillon provoked silence; pure, reverential silence. Good beer and good company.
According to Mark, Camden will be doing their best to get more beers into Yorkshire in 2012, so keep an eye out. The majority of the range may still be on at The York Tap now, so get on it!