Checking in On Wylam and Northern Monk

Last year we hatched a grand plan to try beers that other bloggers named in their Christmas 2016 Golden Pints posts. That didn’t quite come off but did prompt us, eventually, to revisit Wylam and Northern Monk.

We bought the fol­low­ing beers from Beer Ritz with the sup­port of Patre­on sub­scribers like Alec Lath­am and Will Jor­dan – thanks, folks!

  • North­ern Monk Hea­then, 440ml can, £4.16
  • North­ern Monk Man­go Las­si Hea­then, 440ml can, £4.87
  • Wylam Table Beer, 330ml bot­tle, £2.51
  • Wylam Sweet­leaf IPA, 440ml can, £4.50
  • Wylam Slack Jaw IPA, 330ml bot­tle, £3.12

Hea­then IPA was one of the spe­cif­ic beers on the Gold­en Pints mas­ter list, described by Simon Girt (@LeedsBeerWolf) as hav­ing ‘con­sis­tent, dank, juicy appeal’. In its big, colour­ful can it cer­tain­ly looked excit­ing and entic­ing. Pale and hazy, our first reac­tion was, oof, onion soup! The body is vel­vety and milky, even creamy, with a chew­able cal­ci­um tablet qual­i­ty. Beyond the onion we got weed, armpits, and the stink of over­ripe fruit sit­ting in the sun. It’s not our kind of thing, espe­cial­ly at 7.2% ABV, but is one of the bet­ter exam­ples of this kind of beer we’ve encoun­tered – as clean and pre­cise as the style per­mits.

Mango Lassi IPA.
It’s near-rela­tion, Man­go Las­si Hea­then, smelled much more appeal­ing – sweet and sum­mery, all pop art and show­er gel. It con­tains real man­go but doesn’t taste ‘flavoured’. It too is milky with a del­i­cate yogurt acid­i­ty of such sub­tle­ty that we might even have com­plete­ly imag­ined it based on the beer’s name. There is a lime-peel kick, too, which brings to mind beach-side cock­tails. It is full of fizz and prick­le and, for us, eas­i­er drink­ing than straight Hea­then, albeit not quite as excit­ing or out­landish as the name promis­es. And, ouch, that price tag. (This one was a 2016 Gold­en Pints pick from the Beer­nomi­con pod­cast AKA @Beernomicon.)

We should say that, over­all, we feel quite warm towards North­ern Monk, whose core beers are among the most reli­able and best val­ue around. If you like this type of beer, you’ll prob­a­bly like these par­tic­u­lar beers. If you don’t, they won’t con­vert you.

Wylam DH.

These next three weren’t on any spe­cif­ic Gold­en Pints lists but Wylam gen­er­al­ly did well and through­out 2017 seemed to buzz away in the back­ground, qui­et­ly impress­ing peo­ple, so we reck­on it’s a brew­ery that war­rants fre­quent check-ins.

DH Table Beer, which offered a pleas­ing inver­sion of a famil­iar nar­ra­tive. At only 3.5% ABV and with a mere three months to run on the best before count­down we expect­ed it to be knack­ered and thus earn us some ‘drink fresh’ rep­ri­mands; but, in real­i­ty, it could hard­ly have tast­ed fresh­er – as if they’d some­how cap­tured and pack­aged a spring breeze as it passed over a field of young grass. It’s an inter­est­ing beer, too – lemo­ny, coconut­ty and very dry, with a quirky Bel­gian yeast char­ac­ter that brings to mind the weak­est of the Chimay’s or Elusive’s won­der­ful Plan-B. Per­haps the long shelf-life is explained by the high bit­ter­ness, which in turn seems to be pleas­ing­ly soft­ened by the light haze. It is per­haps a touch too raw and rus­tic but what it is not is bor­ing, or stale, or dull, or dirty. We’d drink this again.

Slack­jaw IPA was, by con­trast, rather a dis­ap­point­ment. Is it sup­posed to taste a touch salty, and have that faint sour­ness? Beyond that, even at a mere 6%, it tastes like a dark dou­ble IPA of the 2007 school in which caramel malts and hops com­bine to sug­gest straw­ber­ry jam. It was pass­able, cer­tain­ly drink­able, and red fruit plus acid­i­ty did add up to a cer­tain fresh­ly-squeezed qual­i­ty. We sus­pect age and pack­ag­ing prob­lems might have dulled its edge and will cer­tain­ly give it anoth­er chance, espe­cial­ly if we encounter it on tap.

Final­ly there came Sweet Leaf, a big, mod­ern IPA (7.4%) in a big, mod­ern can. Yel­low and cloudy it cer­tain­ly looked the part and threw up a won­der­ful orna­men­tal gar­den aro­ma of fleshy flow­ers and strange fruit. The flavour com­bi­na­tion – green onion and sweet pineap­ple – didn’t quite work for us but was cer­tain­ly dis­tinc­tive. A bit of dirt­i­ness in the after­taste was also dis­tract­ing. Over­all, though, it would seem to be anoth­er sol­id exam­ple of the style of the day, and might be just the thing for palates fatigued by excess­es of cit­rus.

Wylam, then, stay in about the same place on our men­tal rank­ings: capa­ble of great things, but lack­ing the pol­ish and reli­a­bil­i­ty of, say, Thorn­bridge.

6 thoughts on “Checking in On Wylam and Northern Monk”

  1. It’s Wye-lam. Their site on Newcastle’s Town Moor is impres­sive, even if it does have a strong visu­al hint of Albert Speer.

  2. chew­able cal­ci­um tablet … onion … weed, armpits, and the stink of over­ripe fruit sit­ting in the sun … one of the bet­ter exam­ples of this kind of beer

    Do you do Rate­Beer?

  3. I’ve seen sev­er­al com­ments late­ly about Cit­ra com­ing out oniony – it feels like there’s some dodgy batch­es kick­ing around the trade, like there were in the ear­ly days of it when farm­ers obvi­ous­ly hadn’t quite sussed when to har­vest it or some­thing. Giv­en the huge expan­sion of the acreage and the insa­tiable demand for it, it’s not sur­pris­ing that qual­i­ty con­trol takes sec­ond place to mak­ing a few bucks.

  4. Ta for the kind shout out!
    Hilar­i­ous descrip­tion of Hea­then. I nor­mal­ly enjoy NM’s stuff but found it burny, acidy and messy. Though I’ve also had a taate­bud-shift recent­ly which makes any­thing with mosa­ic (once my favourite hop) taste like a sick­ly sug­ary-oniony mess.

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