This isn’t craft beer, not the west coast IPA, bearded brew hop bomb style anyway. It is however, beer brewed with craft, with a lot of care and heart. Yorkshire Heart to be precise. This small family run outfit were the only thing that really impressed me last week at the Wetherby Food Festival 2015. The outstanding feature about Yorkshire Heart Vineyard and Brewery was the genuine friendliness of the Spakouskas family who make wine and beer on their farm at Nun Monkton, near York. Nothing was too much trouble, everything was explained in detail, all questions answered. Besides, they were offering free wine and beer tasting sessions every thirty minutes.
I’m not going into any great detail about the wines, this is a beer blog. They are however, the only Yorkshire vineyard to produce a traditionally made sparkling wine, secondary fermented in the bottle. Rosé, crisp and acidic, think pink apples, the S. African ones but dry and refreshing, excellent. They were knocking bottles out at twenty quid, so we bought one. The rest of the wines were first rate and proprietor Chris Spakouskis told me that as the vines, first planted in 2006, get older they are producing better quality wines. So, what about the beers. Like I said this isn’t your hop hammer ‘craft beer’ style. This is, with one exception, proper beer, brewed with craft. There’s a range of seven core beers and a few seasonal ales brewed by Tim Spakouskas, the owners son, I tried five of them from the bottle. There’s no shop at the farm but they will sell from the farm gate, or you can shop on line for bottles and casks (or polypins). Chris told me they were doing well getting their ales onto bars across the York area but were experiencing less success in the W.Yorkshire metropolis.
First off was Hearty Bitter (3.7%) which was their first ever brew back in 2011. It’s a traditional brown bitter with a white head. Chris explained all their beers were easy drinking, the sort their family would like to drink. He was right, there was nothing to dislike about Hearty Bitter, it was exactly what it said on the label.
Second up was JRT (4.2%), described as a Best Bitter. Fruitier and less bitter than Hearty Bitter, more golden in colour, brewed with lots of Golding hops. I liked the name. JRT stands for James Rodney Throup a close family member who died the week they first brewed the ale. He was quite a character apparently who liked a dram of whisky, but never drank a drop of beer in his life! Next was Hearty Mild, you can see the theme building with the nomenclature. I’m not sure about Heartger the Spakouskis Lager though? The mild followed the principles of well brewed traditional ales, darker than the bitters, malty with a hint of sweet nuttiness. This one would have benefited from being hand drawn from the cask.
I wasn’t keen on Get Pithed, an orange fruit beer. Very … well orange. Almost like Orange Tango; fizzy and refreshing but more like pop than beer. I probably shouldn’t say it but Chris admitted he wasn’t a fan, describing it as a Marmite experience. We finished off with Lightheart (3.3%), a light pale ale, golden in colour. Despite the low strength there was a good bit of bite and a nice balance. This is one that you really could enjoy drinking all day in the sun.
If you see any of these beers OTB then I would say try them. Don’t expect anything cutting edge in terms of style, just well brewed, easy drinking traditional ales. Fair play to Chris and Gillian and family, well done, thank you for your hospitality.