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.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Pour #16: Black Sheep Rig­g­wel­ter”

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.