Passing Thoughts on Yorkshire Beer

Collage: Yorkshire Beer.

We spent a few days in Yorkshire last week (Leeds-Harrogate-York) and reached a couple of tentative conclusions.

1. Tim­o­thy Tay­lor Land­lord, like Bass, and prob­a­bly like many oth­er beers, can be so dif­fer­ent as to be unrecog­nis­able from one pub to the next. We’re not say­ing it’s an incon­sis­tent prod­uct but that it has a lot of poten­tial for change depend­ing on how it’s han­dled by pubs. We had pints that were bone dry and stony, and oth­ers that were sweet and nec­tar-like – old­er and younger respec­tive­ly we assume. We almost always enjoy it but there seems to be a real sweet spot where it becomes a lit­tle less cloy­ing and gains a sort of peach-like flavour with­out com­plete­ly dry­ing out. Expert opin­ion wel­come below, of course. In the mean­time, we’ll keep test­ing our find­ings when we can.

2. We might have final­ly zeroed in on the essence of York­shire bit­ter. Tet­ley*, Black Sheep and Taylor’s Bolt­mak­er, as well as look­ing more alike in the glass than we recall, all had the same chal­leng­ing, hot, rub­ber-band tang. We’ve noticed it before in Bolt­mak­er but hon­est­ly just thought it was on the turn. But there it was again in mul­ti­ple pints of Bolt­mak­er, in dif­fer­ent pubs, even in dif­fer­ent cities, and in mul­ti­ple pints of the oth­ers, too. It’s most pro­nounced in Bolt­mak­er (Jes­si­ca likes it, Ray finds it too much) and gen­tlest in the cur­rent incar­na­tion of Tet­ley (Ray likes it, Jes­si­ca finds it rather bland) but def­i­nite­ly the same thing. This is where our tech­ni­cal tast­ing skills let us down, unfor­tu­nate­ly. Is this maybe what peo­ple mean by ‘sul­phurous’? Again, expert sug­ges­tions wel­come.

* No longer brewed in York­shire, we know.

3. North­ern pale-n-hop­py beer is more to our taste than Lon­don or Bris­tol takes on the same style, on the whole. We knew this already, real­ly, but this trip con­firmed it. With­out want­i­ng to seem dog­mat­ic about clar­i­ty (we’re not) beers from brew­eries such as North­ern Monk, Rooster’s and Ossett were per­fect­ly clear with a light­ness and dry­ness that made them impos­si­ble to drink in any­thing less than great hearty gulps. Even with plen­ty of flavour and aro­ma there’s a cer­tain del­i­ca­cy there – per­fect engi­neer­ing. We did find our­selves won­der­ing if per­haps we’ve grown to pre­fer sparklers for this style because (per this post for $2+ Patre­on sub­scribers) the noto­ri­ous wid­get has a capac­i­ty for round­ing off hard edges and smooth­ing out flaws. ‘Don’t @ us’, as the kids say.

15 thoughts on “Passing Thoughts on Yorkshire Beer”

  1. Ah – TT con­di­tion­ing, Stonch’s Mas­ter­mind sub­ject (eg http://www.stonch.co.uk/2015/10/what-i-did-wrong-as-publican-2.html ).

    But the short ver­sion is yes, it varies huge­ly depend­ing on how the pub looks after it, TT in gen­er­al seem to give it less con­di­tion­ing at the brew­ery than most and the yeast itself seems to be quite a “slow” one. That pear/peach is a clas­sic fea­ture of their yeast though. Stonch reports that the offi­cial brew­ery advice is that it needs 5 days con­di­tion­ing in the cel­lar, with­out any kind of spile.

    Your aver­age mul­ti-pump pub assumes that it’s just like any oth­er beer and gives it a day at most – it’s an exam­ple of what one los­es when pubs don’t have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to real­ly get to know the “per­son­al­i­ty” of their beers.

    Most of my drink­ing of York­shire beers was in less edu­cat­ed times, now it is only a very occa­sion­al plea­sure and to be hon­est I’m not sure I get your rub­ber bands, “rub­ber band” sug­gests either skunk­ing, a mild infec­tion by wild bugs, or pos­si­bly the yeast get­ting over-stressed?

    Oop north there’s always been a bit of a tra­di­tion of using some sug­ar which counter-intu­itive­ly dries out the beer as well as light­en­ing it, so I guess that’s what you’re pick­ing up on. Plus maybe a bit more hop­ping in the knowl­edge that it will be served as God intend­ed…

    1. Over-stressed yeast was our feel­ing but if it’s deliberate/consistent then maybe that sounds unnec­es­sar­i­ly pejo­ra­tive. Yeast treat­ed a cer­tain way to achieve a cer­tain char­ac­ter, per­haps.

      1. Squares could be empha­sis­ing it maybe. Anoth­er option is that you’re pick­ing up on phe­no­lics from the yeast of Britain’s “Lit­tle Bel­gium” – Tad­cast­er and parts of Bur­ton use sai­son yeasts that aren’t par­tic­u­lar­ly close­ly relat­ed to most British yeast and which are most­ly POF+.

        Harvey’s yeast came from John Smiths – do you get the same taste from that?

          1. This sounds like time for one of your blend­ing exper­i­ments – can the addi­tion of say 20% Sai­son Dupont make a beer turn Tyke?

            Or can the addi­tion of Sai­son Dupont turn Lon­don Pride into Harvey’s Best?

            It’s kin­da fas­ci­nat­ing how all the new knowl­edge about yeast DNA is allow­ing us to make con­nec­tions that peo­ple had only dim­ly sussed before – Pete Brown raved about the York­shire Sai­son that Wiper & True made with WLP037 (alleged­ly the Sam Smith’s yeast) but they were promis­ing a Man­ches­ter Sai­son with WLP038 (labelled Man­ches­ter but actu­al­ly a cousin of John Smith’s) but noth­ing seems to have come of that – per­haps you can ask them if you see them?

        1. That’s inter­est­ing. The thought that Tad and Bur­ton might be impor­tant brew­ing cen­tres not just because of the water, but because of the yeast too is intrigu­ing. That said, I would have thought that Sam’s and the Bass prod­ucts that used to come out of the Tow­er brew­ery had the least York­shire-like char­ac­ter I can think of back in the day, and that Wards and even Stones from Sheffield were much more so, along with Tet­leys and Tay­lors. Although John’s clear­ly had it, too.
          Mind you, those Bass prod­ucts didn’t real­ly taste of much at all.

          1. Yeast is pret­ty mobile, and those York­shire yeasts don’t look like out­liers, they look like some­one has moved them straight from Bel­gium, prob­a­bly more than once – who knows, pos­si­bly with ship­ments of hops?

            Export brew­ers like those in Bur­ton had rather dif­fer­ent require­ments to the typ­i­cal “local” brew­er, the export brew­ers were des­per­ate for good atten­u­a­tion to pre­vent sec­ondary fer­men­ta­tions en route. Sai­son yeasts have great atten­u­a­tion, so it kin­da makes sense.

            Unfor­tu­nate­ly all the attri­bu­tions are a bit ten­ta­tive at the moment, it real­ly needs some more exper­i­ments (both phe­no­type and DNA) and some of the yeast are sea­son­al ones that aren’t avail­able at the moment. But so far we seem to know about four sai­son-type yeasts in Britain – Harvey’s/John Smith’s, WLP037 and WLP038 as men­tioned above which are all POF+ and seem­ing­ly York­shire based, and one POF- one that is prob­a­bly WLP026, gen­er­al­ly attrib­uted to Marston. So we could be look­ing at York­shire being POF+ and Bur­ton being POF-.

            The John Smith yeast had a great rep­u­ta­tion for drop­ping well, so it wouldn’t sur­prise me if it had spread to Sheffield.

            But it would be inter­est­ing to do a sur­vey to see which north­ern yeasts a) were POF+ and b) had oth­er sai­son char­ac­ter­is­tics like tem­per­a­ture tol­er­ance and high atten­u­a­tion.

  2. Land­lord does indeed need decent cel­lar­ing; sad­ly a beer I’ve had more bad expe­ri­ences with in the pub than good. As a Sheffield lad it was the beer of choice after the dis­grace­ful asset-strip­ping and clo­sure of SH Ward & Co; many of the old pubs switched to it. Ward’s itself need­ed a bit of care; at its best a glo­ri­ous­ly malty brew with a dis­tinc­tive whiff of sul­phur and a dry fin­ish. Max­im Brew­ery have kept the name going but God, miss the orig­i­nal!

  3. Yes, the cel­lar­ing of Land­lord can make it vari­able, but I can’t say I’ve had many actu­al “bad” expe­ri­ences with it; even not at its best, it’s nor­mal­ly drinkable.At its best, it is what so many mod­ern beers notably are not – well-bal­anced. That’s some­thing that, how­ev­er much I like so many new beers, I do tend to miss.
    I don’t entire­ly get the “hot rub­ber band” thing, and I’m strug­gling to think of a char­ac­ter­is­tic that is shared by all the tra­di­tion­al bit­ters of York­shire, but the most com­mon con­nec­tion is prob­a­bly the hop­ping, and that’s what I’ve always con­sid­ered the real York­shire taste, with yes, a touch of sul­phur.

  4. Tang: was it tor­ri­fied wheat? In my home brew­ing days 20 years ago that was what appar­ent­ly made a York­shire pale ale dis­tinct was the addi­tion of popped or tor­ri­fied wheat.

  5. You bas­tards! I’ve been try­ing for years to put a fin­ger on that “North­ern twang” and when I first read your “chal­leng­ing, hot, rub­ber-band tang” I thought, NO!!!. But I bore your com­ments in mind when in the Dog & Par­tridge tonight (reli­able beer, not excit­ing, but the place to go for Black Sheep in Sheffield https://www.pubsgalore.co.uk/pubs/43131/), and I have to say I think you’ve got it.

    You bas­tards! (Sor­ry: repi­ti­tion) I don’t think I’ll ever drink a Black Sheep again with­out think­ing of rub­ber bands – or at least, with­out con­scious­ly avoid­ing think­ing about them.

    I can’t say I’ve noticed it in Bolt­mak­er, and in my opin­ion Tet­leys just tastes sweet since they stopped brew­ing it in Leeds, but maybe that’s just my taste buds remem­ber­ing what it used to taste like (and believe me, it bloody well wasn’t rub­ber bands: weirdos).

Comments are closed.