Magical Mystery Pour #17: Kirkstall Dissolution Extra IPA

This traditional IPA from Leeds, at 6% ABV, was chosen for us by David Bishop, AKA @broadfordbrewer, who says:

It’s one of those beers that folk regard as an unsung hero of British IPAs.  I think I’ve become accustomed to the juicy banger IPAs and often forget IPAs like this. I drink a fair bit of the cask version of this beer – the weaker Dissolution IPA. The Extra IPA comes in an unfashionable 500ml bottle, it’s at the maltier end of the IPA scale, it’s quite strong, and the Ratebeerians don’t seem to think much of it, which makes me like it all the more.

We bought our bottles from Beer Ritz at £3.28 per 500ml.

(A spot of disclosure: when we launched our book in Leeds Kirkstall supplied a beer with our names on the pump-clip. They didn’t pay us, we didn’t pay them, and we’ve had no dealings since. Having to do this every time gets exhausting but in for a penny, etc.)

We get a little bit excited about this kind of English IPA — not the 20th Century version which is generally indistinguishable from bitter but the revivalist, retro, BBC costume drama variety. The Protz-Dorber sub-style, if you like. They’re generally made using English hops in quantities substantial enough that you can taste them but with an emphasis on bitterness and flavour, rather than extravagant aroma. They don’t demand to be drunk fresh, now, quickly, drink me now! In fact, a bit of age often does them good. And, because there are so few around they feel different and interesting, sufficient to tickle the novelty receptors, while still being rooted in tradition.

Kirkstall Dissolution in the glass.

On opening the bottle we got a whiff of hot marmalade. After pouring, it looked slightly hazy, and a rather beautiful shade of orange. With noses in glasses we found more marmalade and orange blossom, as encountered in the clear syrup they used to sell in our local Turkish supermarket in London.

The initial impression of the taste was more of the same, along with some ripe strawberry and a general hedgerow leafiness. We kept talking about oranges but it wasn’t citrusy in the sense of bright breakfast juice — more like candied peel and intense oiliness. The bitterness was turned low in the mix but probably about right, holding it back from being cloying. It’s a round beer, not a spiky one; robust, not rough; mellow.

We think it bears a strong resemblance to Meantime’s take on historic English IPA but it’s years since we had a bottle of that, and it is pricey these days, as well as being stronger again at 7.4%. Marston’s Old Empire is probably the best budget alternative, usually available in supermarkets for less than £2 a bottle and great at its best, though sadly variable in our experience.

Though we liked Dissolution Extra a lot, and found every mouthful demanded another, we don’t quite think it earned its ABV, drinking more like a 5% beer. We’d really like to try the weaker version David mentions in his note. Overall, though, it was a big hit with us and we will probably buy it again. If you think these modern IPAs smell like bloody air freshener, but also think Greene King have a bloody cheek, and so on, then you should definitely give it a try.

There’s only one more MMP post after this in the current series when we’ll be writing about Wold Top Marmalade Porter with a side serving of Samuel Smith Taddy Porter for reference.

Magical Mystery Pour #16: Black Sheep Riggwelter

This beer chosen for us by David of Beer Doodles fame (@beerdoodles) is either a modern Yorkshire classic or a ubiquitous supermarket PBA depending on your point of view.

‘PBA’? That’s ‘premium bottled ale’, a category which didn’t really exist before about 1990, when breweries and supermarkets decided they needed a way to grab the attention of real ale drinkers during their weekly shop. We tend to think of Black Sheep, founded in 1991 by Paul Theakston of the famous brewing family, as very much a product of the PBA era, perhaps because that’s the form in which we, living in the south of England, most often encountered its beers.

Recalling his youth David says Riggwelter is ‘a beer that was around when I was too young, really, to be drinking Strong Yorkshire Ale, so I have a certain affinity for its rough edges when served too warm’. We bought our bottles from Beer Ritz at £2.98 per 500ml but most supermarkets seem to be selling it at between £1.60 and 1.90 a bottle.

There’s a fair bit of chat online about whether or not Riggwelter is intended to be a clone of, or homage to, Theakston Old Peculier. Both are around the same strength and a similar red-brown. As far as we can see, Paul Theakston has never gone on record acknowledging the similarity but, having run the family brewery for much of the 1970s, he would certainly know how to brew a clone if he wanted to. They seem quite different beers to us, though — cousins rather than twins. Perhaps, as in the case of many beers vaguely based on other beers, the likeness was more obvious in the early days before Riggwelter evolved into its own thing.

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A Pub Made of Glass

We’ve just acquired a handful of in-house magazines from John Smith’s of Tadcaster dating to 1968 and 1969 one of which contains a feature on a pub in Kirk Sandall, Doncaster, S. Yorks, called The Glassmaker.

The article says that the pub was the Kirk Sandall Hotel up until 1956-7:

It was erected by Pilkington’s, glass manufacturers, of St. Helens, Lancs., who have a large factory at Kirk Sandall, for their employees and to show off their “wares”… When it was first opened in 1934 it was regarded as being years ahead of its time…

(You can see a picture of it in full Deco glory accompanying an article by David W. Gutzke at the Brewery History Society website.)

From the outside The Glassmaker appears as an oblong building with flat roof. One of its windows measures about 20 ft. x 10 ft and contains no less than 98 panes. Dogs, representing various breeds have been exquisitely cut into some of the panes.

Dogs etched into glass.
Dogs etched on glass. Photographer uncredited. SOURCE: The Magnet, April 1968.

But that’s not all:

Inside the building the glass panels, squares and shapes of many sizes which surround the visitor on all sides are of many colours. Those used in what is known as the Gold Room are very rare and are known as “rough cast printed and fired gold”… The door of this room is of armour-cast toughened glass… The mirrored walls of one quite small room turn it magically into a vast auditorium and three or four people are multiplied into hundreds.

Glass panels.
Glass panels. Photographer uncredited. SOURCE: The Magnet, April 1968.

This combo of industrial showroom and pub sounds amazing so far — almost like a fun house. But…

To some extent the result of all this glass was a building which did not generate a high degree of warmth. In fact it was distinctly “cold” in appearance so the recent improvements have had the physical and psychological effect of “warming it up”.

Oh, no — ‘improvements’. What did they do?

The principal entrance hall has been completely changed and fitted carpet and mahogany-style panelling have covered up hundreds of green tiles which tended to give the impression of a fish and chip shop! The lounge has also been equipped with fitted carpet, some mahogany panelling, comfortable seating and modern tables.

The really interesting glass features, they insist, were retained, but we’ve got used to this narrative: modernised in the 1960s, faux-Victorianised in the 1970s, and then… Well, let’s stop guessing and take a look.

It’s still there! And looks in quite good nick. There’s hardly a trace of Art Deco left, the name has changed — it’s now The Glasshouse — and there’s a big old extension on the front. But, hey, it’s not boarded up, burnt down, or been replaced by a branch of Tesco.

And here’s an amazing 21st century perk for the architecturally curious: thanks to Street View we can even look inside at all that beautiful glass!

Oh.

Unless we’re being dense, there is no interesting glass anywhere to be seen. Just boring glass. That’s a shame.

Still, looks a nice enough place for a Sunday carvery (you can read Simon’s comments at The British Real Ale Pub Adventure) and at least we have The Magnet for a record of how it used to look.

Bottled Milds 5: The North Country

This final batch of bottled milds are all from the North — a term which, of course, covers a great deal of territory.

Though the Midlands has a strong claim to mild it is The North with which it is most associated in the popular imagination — part of the stereotypical image of a northerner along with flat caps and whippets, as in this article on the crowd-sourced comedy website NewsBiscuit:

In a move which is sure to be welcomed by ‘hard working families’ and ‘lovable northerners’, the Government has announced that whippets, pipes, pints of mild and dolly tubs are all to be zero-rated for VAT.

As with CAMRA and beards there is some truth in the association: we found a relative abundance of mild on our last trip to Manchester, albeit mostly kegged; and yet as early as the 1970s CAMRA was declaring it all but extinct in London and the Home Counties.

Apart from the question of whether they’re any good — the main point of these posts — there’s a secondary line of enquiry: do they have anything in common with each other? And, if so, can we say northern mild is any way distinct from Midlands mild?

  • Brass Castle Hazelnut Mild (Beers of Europe, £2.89 500ml)
  • Ilkley Black (Beer Ritz, £2.96 500ml)
  • Moorhouse Black Cat (Beers of Europe, £2.05 500ml)
  • Rudgate Ruby Mild (Beer Ritz, £3.00 500ml)
  • Thwaites Dark Mild (Morrisons, £3.96 4 × 440ml)

Continue reading “Bottled Milds 5: The North Country”

The Talbot Arms, Settle

As you’ll see from the gallery we posted earlier today there’s no shortage of pubs in the conjoined-twin-towns of Settle and Giggleswick but one was our clear favourite: the Talbot Arms.

Situated off the High Street, behind the market place and a few doors down from the 17th-century architectural oddity that is the Folly, the Talbot is visually striking: a wall of white with the pub’s name in huge black letters and an unusual sign of a white dog which looks both hip and yet also strangely medieval.

Inside is a single large room, rather bare, which somehow conveys that dining is an option without making it feel like an obligation. On our multiple visits we found locals chatting at the bar, in corners gossiping, or in muddy boots reading the Craven Herald with glasses of wine.

The ale list at the Talbot.

The cask ale offer struck us as interesting for various reasons. First, because we recognised few of the breweries; secondly, because there was a clear effort to cover a range of styles, from mild to pale’n’hoppy via old-fashioned bitter; and, finally, because the range seemed more resolutely small-and-local than some other pubs in the area.

Pump clip for Partners Cascade.

Not every beer we tried was top notch but none of them were downright bad, and all were in good nick. It was also here that we also found our beer of the week: Partners Brewing Cascade (4% ABV, £3 a pint). Somewhat neglected in favour of more fashionable hop varieties, Cascade is surely due a revival — citrus, yes, but with a distinctive fruits-of-the-forest character that lent this particular beer a ripe juiciness to balance a light body and flinty bitterness.

Perhaps those of you who know the northern scene better than us will let us know whether Partners is a generally well-regarded brewery — we suspect not, or we might have heard of them — but, regardless, this particular beer was one we stuck on for multiple pints, and for two days in a row at that.

The Talbot Arms also has a proper beer garden — that is, not a wasp-infested yard next to the bins with a pile of mouldering carpet, as is found in most English pubs, but something landscaped and leafy, with solid tables, and a mixture of sunshine and shade. It isn’t quite up to German standards, but it’s not far off.

Now, if you visit Settle, the Talbot might not be your favourite — perhaps we were lucky with the weather and the particular beers that were on offer — but you can certainly have some fun finding out over the course of a day or weekend.