I spent a couple of days in Yorkshire last November and while I was there I stopped off for a bite to eat in a village called Reeth, in Swaledale. The pub in question, The King’s Arms, served a lovely meal but what was of more concern to me was the range of fine ales on offer.
As you would expect in this part of the country, Theakston’s was well represented but so was the BLACK SHEEP BREWERY.
After the Theakston Brewery in Masham was taken over by Scottish & Newcastle, Paul Theakston – using the same traditional methods that had made Theakston’s so famous – set up the Black Sheep Brewery in the same town. Masham was once a centre of the sheep trade in the North of England, and there is still a breed of sheep called the ‘Masham’ and this could explain the name of the brewery. On the other hand, it could be that Paul Theakston, by thumbing his nose at S&N, saw himself as the ‘black sheep’ of the family.
Who knows, or indeed cares!
BLACK SHEEP pours a clear and sparkling, copper/amber colour which is topped by an impressive, creamy and fluffy, off-white head. This laces the glass beautifully and formed big lumps of foam all the way to the bottom. The aroma is a little floral with some faint metallic tones and a quite firm, citric fruitiness. There’s a bit of an earthy and herbal quality, but not much from the malt, save a light butterscotch feel.
It’s light bodied with a soft mouthfeel and a gentle carbonation. There’s a nice crisp hop bite up front with lots of tart citrus flavour…possibly grapefruit, and a hint of oily, hop resin. It turns a little more fruity – most noticeably apples and pears – and a trace of caramel malt makes an appearance in the middle alongside some faint nutty, yeasty tones. The finish is all about leafy hops with a dry, bitter finish and just a little earthy, woody flavour in the aftertaste.
At 3.8% ABV, this is a classic session ale. There are lots of flavours and aromas competing with each other but all of them are nicely balanced to give a very smooth brew. Very easy to drink, I could well imagine sinking a few of these without much difficulty.
I had this with a meal of tuna steak and steamed veg, and it complimented it nicely but I don’t think there are too many foods which wouldn’t go well with it.
An excellent example of good English bitter.
I paid around 2.50 for a pint but it’s available in most supermarkets where a 500ml bottle will cost around 1.60
Would I drink it again? – Too flocking right I would!