I hadn’t been to the Great Yorkshire Show for years. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of beer? Obviously a beer tent or two, maybe a few small breweries selling their wares. In reality it was a tale of two Theakstons. I’ve never been a big fan of either brothers ales. For a start they seem to be everywhere. Okay, they make real ale and over the years they have provided this when not many others were doing so, so fair play to them there. On what I saw they might both be changing their outlook, which maybe changed my mind a little about Paul and Simon Theakston.
Black Sheep had a massive presence. Splendid marquee, the Black Sheep Baa..nd knocking out covers, tables and chairs outside and a long bar. Top marks to the Baa staff, working on a team basis so you never had to wait. Absolutely perfect. The beers? Well, Black Sheep obviously, as well as mainstream lager and cider. I steered well clear of the Bitter, I don’t like the nasty sour bitter aftertaste that builds up in your mouth after a couple of pints. I hadn’t seen My Generation before so I thought I would give it a go. Guess what, I liked it. A bit of research says it’s a 4.2% light straw coloured session pale ale, brewed from an exciting blend of new world hops including Cascade, Galena, Magnum and Polaris, which gives a big, fresh aroma and a cracking bitter finish. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not chock full of hops but it’s different to their normal fare, very drinkable but not worth the four pound per pint they were charging for everything. So the next one was Riggwelter. Most pubs don’t sell this strong Yorkshire ale and at 5.9% it was definitely the best value. It’s not a bad drink neither but you don’t want a lot of it. Fitting to drink something with an agriculturally derived name at an agricultural show.
I wandered on looking for more beery attractions and stumbled on Ampleforth Abbey selling their wine, cider and beer. I’ve never tried it but Monks and beer sort of go together, one to try sometime, but not today because it was bottle out sales only. The aptly titled The Great Yorkshire Brewery also had a stall selling bottles in the food hall. They looked to have their full range on sale. I’ve not had much from them apart from a taste of the Lavender blond on keg, it was quite refreshing and not unpleasant at all. Again there was no bar so I kept walking.
Strangely the tent housing the sixteenth largest brewer in the UK was much smaller than the Black sheep of the Theakston family. They didn’t have much beer left by three o’clock neither. The pump clips on the Best Bitter and Old Peculiar were turned round as they’d sold out. I enquired of the very friendly staff, apparently the main franchise for the beer tent was held by Black Sheep so Theakstons could only have a small trade stand giving tasters away. They’d got round this by asking for a donation to Ovarian cancer for each half sampled. Simon Theakston’s generosity in this way has raised £11k so far this year for the charity. Same as with Black Sheep, I’m not a fan of Theakstons neither. Yeah, it’s that strange build up in the mouth of nasty sour bitterness after a couple of pints, almost as if they’ve put the same tree bark in it. Someone far more knowledgeable than I will know why this is, please let me know if you do.
I tried a bottle of XB at £2.50 and was pleasantly surprised. As well as a bar there was a coopering display and while I was looking about I noticed they had two ‘modern style’ ales on keg lines. Both cold filtered and unpasteurised; Peculiar IPA and Barista stout, suggested donation £1.50 for half. I tried the Peculiar IPA, quite pleasant, It’s copper in colour and the tasting notes say it’s made with Cluster bullion, Simcoe and Theakstons home grown hops to produce notes of pine nuts and intense fruit flavours of mango, guava and honey. Yeah it’s got a resiny note and subtle tropical fruits, maybe not an IPA and if I’m going to be honest, more a traditional bitter brewed with a modern twist. I now wanted a taste of the Barista stout but on going back to the bar, guess what? The stout had gone off, so I’ll never know. I had a look on their web site and there’s no mention of either, although they had both at Harrogate Beer Festival. Barista is brewed using seven cereal malts and finest coffee with a crème caramel and vanilla flavour, hints of dark berry fruit and an almost too similar name to Summer Wine Brewery Barista Espresso Stout?
Looks like everyone is trying to get in on a share of the British Beer Revolution. I don’t think it’s difficult to gauge whether this is a genuine effort to be cutting edge or whether they are just trying to cash in, a la Crafty Dan. I know what I think but I also think they’re worth a try and if I saw Black Sheep My Generation on the bar I would have a go.