Built in 1860 by the Craster family, it’s now the only smokehouse left in the small seaside village of Craster, Northumbria. Robson’s took over the business in 1906 and their renowned Kippers are still cured in the original smoke house by the fourth generation of the family. Only traditional methods and quality fish are used; after being split and brined, the prepared Herrings are smoked over a mixture of white wood and oak sawdust.
If you stand outside the premises, in front of the Jolly Fisherman pub you can smell the Kippers (and other fish) being cured. I adore smoked food of any variety and I love the smell of the oak perfumed fumes that waft out of the louvred windows in the roof of the stone built smokehouse.
I’ve drank Anarchy Brew Co beers plenty of times when I’ve been up in Northumbria. They make some excellent beers, and an odd one or two that I’ve not been impressed with, but generally this progressive Morpeth, Northumbria brewer are a good bet.
Flipping the top off a bottle of Up in Smoke, I could see the tips of smoke venting from the smokehouse. I could hear the gulls sitting on top of the pub and the tide lapping on the shore of the small harbour. I began to get a massive craving for a pair of Kippers.
I guess the beers name, and the Kippers on the label is a big hint to this being a smoked beer, it’s only when you read the label you learn the malt has been smoked by Robson’s in their 157 year old smokehouse. So, apart from the evocative smell, what’s Up in Smoke like?
As it pours there’s a white head, which quickly disappears. The beer itself is hazy and golden, with an almost rosé tint to the beer. I sort of bought my bottle by accident (I’m sticking with that!) when I saw it in the window of Independant Food & Drink, a Deli in Seahouse. I was neither looking for, nor expecting to find any beer, but I liked the fact a quality local independent shop was stocking a locally brewed beer with traditionally and locally produced ingredients. I liked it even better when I went inside and saw a small, but interesting, range of mainly, local bottled and canned beers, including Wylam and a good selection of Anarchy Brew Co beers, including Up in Smoke. If you are ever up this way then Independent Food & Drink is well worth a visit if you are hunting for a decent beer.
Initially the taste is smoked cheese, followed by a citrus sharpness and a hint of piney resin. This gave way to a soft toffee malt and an after taste of smoky bitterness. Although the head retention was poor (that may have been the glasses in our holiday let?) there was plenty of carbonation in the light bodied beer. I’m trying to think of words to describe it; different, interesting, refreshing. It’s definitely not overpoweringly smoky like a Rauchbier and as you get over the initial smoke hit, it becomes less prominent and the other elements kick in.
The 3% brew lives up to it’s billing of a ‘table beer’ and I’m quite taken with the whole idea of this; something intended to drink with a meal, refreshing and compatible with food. I’m not entirely sure you’d want to drink something so smokey with most food? If I was going to suggest a pairing then it would be something like a strong blue cheese, maybe some fat juicy barbecued spare ribs to cut through the unctuousness?
Verdict: Not to everyone’s taste. I enjoyed it. I liked the local ingredients, local beer, local shop and drinking it close to the source.