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Two Bottled Beers from The Maltings in York

The Maltings, York

I have mentioned The Maltings pub in York once before in these blogs (see here). I have had occasion to visit the pub again since I wrote that blog, and again found an interesting range of beers. Unfortunately, I hit peak time and found the corner I was sitting in to be very crowded and jostly with loud and noisome customers who thought every noun should be preceded by an obscenity. There are signs up in The Maltings declaring it to be a no-swearing venue. It’s not. One day, I hope to get to The Maltings at an off-peak moment and just sit and enjoy the beers and what I imagine would be a fine atmosphere in this charismatic building.

Two bottled beers from The Maltings

When last there, I did manage to buy two bottles labelled as The Maltings own brews. I’ll be honest here, I’m not sure if these beers are actually brewed on the premises or are brewed for them by another local brewer. There is no mention of ‘The Maltings’ brewery in the Good Beer Guide, either in the breweries section or in the entry for the pub itself. Nor is any brewing activity mentioned on their website.

It seems that the brewer (whoever he or she is) had a surfeit of raspberries when brewing the two beers I bought, a Raspberry Wheat Beer and a Raspberry Stout. These two were the only Maltings bottled beers available that day. The labels on the bottles are plain and look like they’ve come off a computer printer. That’s fine, nothing wrong with that.

The Raspberry Wheat Beer fairly exploded out of the bottle when it was opened, leading to a mad dash for towels by Lady Alebagger. It’s not usually a good sign when bottle conditioned ales leap out of the bottle, but there appeared to be nothing wrong with the beer itself, apart from the fact that a proportion of it was spread liberally over Lady A’s furniture. The ABV of this beer is 5.6% and it presents a cloudy orange colour, more or less what I would expect from a wheat beer with raspberries in it.

Maltings Raspberry Wheat Beer

The initial mouthfuls of this beer were very gassy – hardly to be wondered at after its explosive entry into the world. The gas came out of solution within a few minutes and a more moderate texture followed. I have to admit that wheat beer is not my favourite style, so I may be a little biassed against it, but I found this beer to be fairly pleasant, though with that wheat beer kind of taste that I don’t really like very much. Ah, colour me fickle, I care not. Alongside the wheaty taste was a decent amount of spice and some distinctly fruity notes, though I’d be pushed to say that I could definitely taste raspberries. As with wheat beers in general, there is little sweetness in this beer, and after the swallow there is a good bitterness that grows in the mouth. One for wheat beer fans to try.

Maltings Raspberry Stout

The second bottle was Raspberry Stout, at 4.4%. Cautiously, I opened this bottle over the sink, but the precaution proved unnecessary. The beer poured nicely, producing a good pale brown head. The beer is a very deep red in colour. Again, I found this one very gassy to start with, but the gas soon passed (ahem!). I’m not sure what I was expecting in this beer, but it certainly wasn’t what I got. It is dry and bitter, almost sour in flavour. There is some fruit present; again I would not say that I could definitely taste raspberries, and what fruit there was did not lend any sweetness to the taste. I found the taste of this stout to be drifting into the arena of the unpleasant and rather hard going, and I’m afraid that the kitchen sink drank a fair bit of it.

So, I find myself with two good reasons to return to the Maltings. Firstly I want to experience it outside lout-hour, and secondly I want to try more of their home-labelled beers. These two, however, I will not be buying again.

www.maltings.co.uk

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Posted by on 27 April, 2012 in Bottled Beer, Pubs

 

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York Beer and Cider Festival 2011

The main marquee

The third York Beer & Cider Festival was held at Knavesmire, near the famous racecourse, from the 15th to the 17th September 2011. I visited on Friday 16th, getting to the huge marquee for about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I had no problem parking on Knavesmire Road, no more than a few yards from the Festival tent. As card-carrying CAMRA members, Lady A and I got in for a mere £2 each. On top of that, the programme cost 50p, and a £1 refundable deposit had to be paid for the polycarbonate glasses (the licence for the venue prohibits actual glass). Lady A and I, however, plumped for the attractive goblet shaped polycarbonates, which required us parting with £3 each. These receptacles were not returnable and the £3 non-refundable. I don’t know why.

From the start, I was impressed by the organization. Seating was provided throughout the two marquees at long wooden tables with fold up chairs. A beer festival with no seating can be a tiring affair.

This was clearly not just a beer festival, but a festival of all things beery. There was a tee-shirt stand, a book stand, Fentiman’s soft drinks stand, a stand selling pewter tankards, a specialist coffee stand. Food was not neglected either. Outside the main marquee were mobile foodshops – Pies, pasties, fish & chips, a hog roast, German sausages & bratwurst, burgers, baked potatoes and vegetarian curries were all available. I had a superb steak and ale pie with chips.

Over 250 beers were on offer, 6 breweries had their own bars here, offering in total 40 ales – a small beer festival in itself! Then there was the LocAle bar, with offerings from 22 further breweries located within 25 miles of York. The ‘Rest of the UK’ section included beers from a further 50 breweries from as far away as London (Fullers) and Brighton (Dark Star). The choice was immense. This was also a great opportunity to sample beers from some of the newest breweries on the block.

Barkston, Black Paw, Brass Castle, Brightside, Cleveland, Geeves, Haworth Steam, James & Kirkman, Kirkstall, Magic Rock, Milltown, North Riding, Owenshaw Mill, Rough Draft, Scottish Borders, Sherfield Village, Slightly Foxed, Sportsman, Two Roses, Tyne Bank, Walls and Welbeck Abbey – 22 breweries that only began brewing in 2011 were represented here. What clearer sign could there be of the health of the British Real Ale scene than that? How many of them continue to thrive over the next few years is open to debate, but let’s wish all of them all the best!

There being such a choice, I had to rationalize my drinking policy. I decided to sample only beers from breweries that were new to me, and only to drink dark ales. I had been to another, smaller beer festival in Horwich, near Bolton, the previous weekend, where there was a dearth of dark ales, so I sought to redress the balance. There was one exception to this rule – Fuller’s Vintage Ale, which is an exceptional ale in many ways.

Massive choice

My first was Bridestones Dark Mild, a nice gentle introduction to the session. It’s very dark red and has a respectable ABV of 4.5%. The smell is sweet and slightly caramel. The taste is also sweet and malty, Lady A tasted toffee in there too, though I couldn’t place it.

Cropton Blackout, a very dark brown porter, apparently made to a ‘unique’ 1930s recipe, weighs in at 5.0%. The smell presents hints of smoke and frankfurters. The taste is like smooth, silky liquid chocolate with hints of fruit and tiny touches of the smoke and frankfurters experienced in the smell. The mouthfeel is incredible. This is a sensational ale.

My next choice was the wonderfully named Bird Brain Chocolate Penguin, but unfortunately it had  just sold out. The volunteer barman suggested I try Brass Castle Bad Kitty instead, promising very generously that if I didn’t like it, he’d drink it for me. Comforted by such an ironclad guarantee, I agreed. Bad Kitty is quite black in colour and has a fantastic chocolate aroma. The taste is of chocolate and smooth vanilla, wrapped up in a silky smooth mouthfeel. Absolutely wonderful. It reminded me very much of one of my current favourite ales – Titanic Chocolate and Vanilla Stout, which manages to be fabulous out of the cask and the bottle.

The next beer on my list was Fernandes Malt Shovel Mild, a very dark red in colour but lighter than previous samples at 3.8%. Again, I found chocolate to be dominant in the aroma. The beer is full-bodied, chocolatey and malty, and yet the finish was thinnish. A slightly disappointing end to an otherwise very fine mild.

A contrast was provided by Kirkstall Black Band Porter, a deep brown 7.6% ale. The smell was very strong and malty, with the taste being much the same. The malt flavour in this beer is one of the strongest I had experienced recently. A dark and bitter ale.

I reckoned by now the time was right for an Imperial Russian Stout, and I opted for Revolutions Propaganda, not the strongest of Imps at 7.8%, but with enough of a kick. This beer was being launched at the festival, so here was a brand new Imp for me to try. The smell is malty, as expected. The taste starts smoothly with a slightly thick mouthfeel, initially malty but with that characteristic spirituous overtaste kicking in near the middle of the taste. The overall effect is of smooth liquorice with a bitter finish. A great example of an Imp! I’ll be looking out for this one.

Revolutions Propaganda IRS

At this point, the heavens really opened. As you can imagine, the noise in the marquee was quite high as everyone got into their sessions, but it was all drowned out by the hammering of the rain on the marquee roof. There had been ominous rumblings before, but now the lightning was flashing regularly. A few moments later, inevitably, perhaps, the lights went out. There was a great cheer, and the emergency lights kicked in almost immediately. The lights went on and off for about an hour as electricians battled bravely with the generators – disturbed by a nearby lightning strike. With the emergency lights on, however, it never got so dark that I couldn’t read my programme.

Wet, wet, wet

More importantly, perhaps, the dimmer conditions in no way affected the flow of beer, and my next sample was Ridgeside Black Night, a lovely dark ale with an ABV of 5%. Sweet smell, the taste was of sweet malt and, oddly, vegetables. The taste is interesting and good, very fresh tasting. M’lady commented that it tasted as though it should be doing us good.

Cleveland Black Stuff, very dark brown with a 4.5% ABV was the next to fill my glass. Described in the tasting notes as a ‘dark mysterious ale with a velvety chocolate aftertaste’, I though the wrong beer had been poured into my glass. It smelled very strongly of frankfurters, and the taste was similar, but thin and a bit watery. Sorry, Cleveland, the notes and the taste don’t match.

Sherfield Village Pioneer Stout provided my last tasting for the festival. Black coloured and weighing in at 5%, Pioneer is very rich. Dark malty liquorice and treacle dominate a very smooth, full-bodied flavour. A lovely, lip-smacking finish.

This beer festival was so well-organized and had such an excellent choice of beers (not to mention 30 ciders and perries and a foreign beers bar) and merchandise that I could happily have come here on all three days. As I have found to be normal, the atmosphere was friendly and convivial. I did see one man being escorted out, snarling and snapping, but there was a good presence of stewards, making the ejection as painless as possible for everyone else. I have been to many beer festivals, and I love them all, but for all the effort that obviously went into this one, congratulations York CAMRA – your beer festival was the best.

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 23 September, 2011 in Beer Festivals, Cask Ale

 

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Scooping Round York – Part the First

The Bar in the Last Drop Inn

York was traditionally founded in AD 71 by the invading Romans, but there may well have been a settlement on the banks of the river Ouse before then. Its name has changed gradually over the millenia, initially called Eboracum by the Romans, Eoforwic by the Anglo-Saxons, Jorvik (almost exactly the same pronunciation as Eoforwic) by the Vikings, and now simply York.

Much of the centre of the town is still filled with narrow mediaeval streets, with overhanging mediaeval buildings. Some of the streets still follow the layout of roads in the Roman fort.

In all that time, it’s not surprising that some damned fine pubs have come into existence. There are more than one pub which claim to be the oldest in York, but the most famous must be Ye Olde Starre Inn, off Stonegate, which has a gallows sign spanning the street. There are two small rooms, one on each side of the main entrance, and a larger room housing the bar. I’ve visited this pub on a number of occasions, there is usually a reasonable selection of ales on the bar, but it’s a very busy pub, right in the heart of the tourist district. The crowd is mixed, but predominantly young.

On Colliergate lies my personal favourite York pub. The Last Drop Inn, owned by York Brewery, is located on a small town square which once saw the execution of criminals by hanging, hence the double meaning of the pub’s name. This is a small L-shaped pub , with flag and wooden floored areas. The bar normally has four or five handpumps on offer, two or three from York Brewery’s range, plus one or two guests. During my visits to the pub, the guests have included beers from Bateman’s, Titanic, Castle Rock, Leeds, Nethergate, Ossett, Vale and Slaters. One beer that is always on is York Centurion’s Ghost. This has to be one of my current favourite beers. Smooth and slightly smoky, it has a roasted malt flavour and a hint of bitterness. Fruit flavours can sometimes be discerned, though this does seem to depend on the brew. This beer won a gold award in the Champion Beer of Britain Awards in 2006. The Last Drop is an enthusiastic supporter of CAMRA’s LocAle initiative, and also gives a 10% discount to CAMRA members. Although there appears to be a moderate turnover of staff here, the staff that are there are unfailingly cheerful and enthusiastic. It’s just a great little pub to be in. It’s a travesty that it’s not in the Good Beer Guide. [See note]

Brigantes Bar, on Micklegate, near Micklegate Bar, is York CAMRA’s pub of the year for 2011, as it was in 2008. This is a spacious, roomy bar serving beers mostly from Yorkshire. The lack of any soft furnishings gives the place a utilitarian, though not uncomfortable feel. It also means that it’s very noisy, with nothing to muffle the voices of the early-evening, post-work crowd. This is especially noticeable if, like me, you end up sitting next to a crowd of long-bodied, short-legged men with huge voices and double chins. It seemed that they thought the whole pub would be fascinated by their ‘marketing strategy solutions’. The beer was well-kept and there was a good choice on during my visit. I started with a Hawkshead Cumbrian 5 Hop, a 5% golden ale. This is massively hoppy and massively bitter. I couldn’t help noticing the hint of shudder that came with it. Moving swiftly on, I had a Dark Star Old Chestnut, a delicious 4% mild. It’s very smooth, malty and husky. The pump clip says ‘mellow’ – yeah, I’d agree with that. Next was Leeds Samba, a 3.7% golden ale – light, citrussy, hoppy and with a dryness that grows towards the end. My final draught at Brigantes was Bowland Sawley Tempted, a 3.7% bitter. It’s quite smooth, light and hoppy. Lady A detected floral hints that I didn’t. This is an easily drinkable ale, but not huge on actual flavour.

Back towards the centre of touristy York, we find the Golden Lion on Church Street. This is another pub that has a claim to an ancient pedigree. It’s a large, open one-room affair, with a large bar serving usually five or six real ales. The ales are usually well-kept, but if you get a duff ‘un (it can happen to anyone), there’s no problem taking it back for a replacement. Pub food is quite good here, well cooked and speedily delivered. This pub tends to attract a younger crowd, and is serviced by a bouncer at the door to prevent the entry of undesirables. Strangely, he let me in.

The Maltings lies just within the walls at Tanner’s Moat, by Lendal Bridge. It’s another old building, having been a pub (under various names) since 1842. Black Sheep is a regular, along with six guests. Unfortunately, I had only time for a short stay, and managed two beers. Firstly, Junction Trainspotter, a 3.8% brown bitter. It is bitter, too, a bit brash. Not bad, but some unpleasant undertastes to its slightly harsh malt flavour. Secondly, I had a Bartram’s Stingo. I’m not quite sure what this beer was supposed to be. It was orange in colour, and weighed in at 4.5%. A bitter, maybe. And yet it wasn’t bitter. In fact it was sweet, very sweet and smooth, but no actual flavour that I could discern. I wanted to stay longer in the Maltings, but it wasn’t possible, so it’s up there on my list for my next visit to York, early in 2012.

There are many, many more fine pubs in York, and I’ll be following this article up with more on York later on. In the meantime, I can only encourage you to go to York to experience this delightful city and its great pub heritage for yourself.

Note. I’m very pleased to see that the Last Drop is included in the 2012 GBG.

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 22 July, 2011 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping

 

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