Thursday, November 27, 2008

Copper Dragon Brewery

Copper Dragon Brewery will be opening their doors tomorrow for the first time in their brand-spanking new premises. I was lucky enough to have a sneak preview this morning of both the brewhouse and the visitors centre - and a fine morning it was too.
Despite the inclement Yorkshire weather, MD Steve Taylor was in a fine mood - which we quickly caught on was his usual demeanour - especially when showing us round the brewhouse. Despite being caught up in paperwork and the day-to-day running of Copper Dragon, the brewery - including the brewing process and ingredients - is clearly still something he cherishes and is reluctant to compromise on. And the brewhouse is spectacular - the custom-made fermenting vessels and Mash Tun rise high into the ceiling space like gleaming monoliths, and everywhere hisses and bubbles with steam and industry.

We learn that only Yorkshire malt is used in all the beers, and the quality control is as strict as it ever was, despite CD's clear growth in the last few years. Gordon Wilkinson, head brewer, also echoes that. You can feel the pride as he explains the faith he has in his young but talented team of brewers - not to mention the recipes for the beer themselves. He feels CD is part of Skipton - and keeping things local is part of that.
Although the visitors centre and bistro was not quite finished, the overall feel of the place is that of a new, forward-thinking brewery; one that recognises that pleasing the tourists and the tourism trade as well as the beer fans are important as each other these days. One only has to look at the likes of Black Sheep and Guinness to see where Steve is coming from; gone are the days when only CAMRA would arrange brewery tours - and now Copper Dragon are proud to be one more place for the interested to visit.
The Bistro will, of course, feature all the breweries beers as complement to the food and as part of their make-up. We tried the classic beer-cooking dish of Fish and Chips with Golden Pippin batter - and wonderful it was too - clean, firm haddock in a super-crispy golden batter. Served, of course, with mushy peas.
I'll be visiting again in a few months time to see how things go; but something tells me I won't be the only one.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Tan Hill: For Sale

Just a snippet of interesting news - The Tan Hill pub in Swaledale - Britain's highest - is up for sale. A truly individual pub, let's hope someone with a genuine love the the history of the place buys it, eh?
Read more here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Fox & Newt - Redux

Late last year I wrote about a visit to The Fox & Newt - and it proved to be a popular post; it would seem the brewpub had a lot of admirers from the 70's up until recent times.
I feared, however, that the article was somewhat of a kiss of death - not long after I visited, it closed. Again. This was becoming a little like deja vu.

I'm pleased to report that The Fox is up and running - and hopefully for good this time. I enjoyed a relaxed lunch there this week, and spent a little time chatting to Emma, the manager, about what happened before and her plans for the pub.

It all sounds great; firstly- and most importantly - the brewery will be back in early 2009 - although not under the Fox and Newt moniker due to the usual legal wrangles. Recipes have been formulated, gear has been tested and tweaked and a talented bunch of brewers seems to have been assembled. Watch this space for more - I can't stress how much of an event this should be. After all, you can count on the fingers of one hand genuine brewpubs in the vast space of Yorkshire - and there are none in Leeds. A true cause for celebration.
As for the pub itself - well, it's been updated, sure - the walls are now painted and the floors scrubbed but the pub-feel has been retained, as had (thank christ) the tiled fireplace in the side room. Emma's keen to point out that this is a pub - and one focused on beer and lots of it. There are no alcopops in the fridge. There are only two lagers on sale. The beer -chalkboard was updated twice in the hour is was there, and there's even tasting notes for the beer available at the bar.

The beer selection is good - Leeds Pale is always on, and in fine form, I might add - as was the Adnams Broadside that shored me up for the rapidly declining temperatures outside. Others on offer were Leeds' Hellfire, Black Sheep, Elland's Eden and Brain's Top Notch. Emma proudly counted off the beers from York, Elland, Abbeydale and many other local breweries sitting in the cellar, waiting to be supped.

The food looked good - homemade and good value - and I'll be certainly visiting again. The Fox is (as it always has been) a good pub - one slightly out of town, but one that is worth the five minute walk up towards Park Lane. It's run by an energetic and proud bunch of people, who truly want you to enjoy good beer. And hopefully, it'll be beer that they have brewed themselves in the not-too distant future.

The Fox & Newt
Open from 12 midday every day.

9 Burley Street,Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS3 1LD

Friday, November 14, 2008


A few weeks ago I was in Beer-Ritz browsing for a wheat beer to wash down some Calamari I was frying up that night. It was only by chance that I happened upon a very indistinct bottle called Rodham's wheat. Well, the opportunities to pick up a Yorkshire-brewed Wheat don't come along often, so it was duly added to the already groaning basket and off we went.

I was seriously impressed by this beer - crystal -clear, it turned out to be superbly made and surprisingly well balanced white beer. All the classic coriander, orange peel and citrus flavours abounded and it turned out to be a perfect bedfellow for my golden Calamari.

Last week I picked up their IPA, and again my other half found me rabbiting on at her like a loon after only one sip - a wonderfully sweet, grassy IPA; not too hoppy despite having that puckering crispness you expect of a new-world IPA -and really, really well balanced.

Rodham's are based in Otley, and to the best of my knowledge don't have a website as such. However small they may be, Rodham's are brewing some wonderful beers right now and if you do see any of their wares - be sure to taste. They are presenting a number of beer's at this weekend's Otley Beer Festival, and that would be a great place to start.

Rodham's Brewery, Otley, Yorkshire, LS21 1BZ
Tel: 01943 464530

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Session: My Favourite Beer

This month's Session concerns my favourite beer.

My favourite Beer is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It may be uncool to say that, as a Brit – moreover, as a northern brit, surrounded by such good ale, but it’s true. I am a certified Americophile (if that’s a word). In my teens as a wannabe writer, my heroes were Charles Bukwoski, Hunter Thompson and Norman Mailer. Musically, I mostly listen to Americana, with Iron & Wine, Ryan Adams, Calexico and Richmond Fontaine usually on standard rotation on my Ipod. I love dusty pictures of roadside motels and diners (something you just don’t get over here), and in almost all artistic aspects of my life aside from sport, America plays more of a role than the UK. I don’t know why – I’ve even never visited the place.

In much the same way, the USA informs my love of beer. Like I said above, despite being surrounded by such great beer, I always find myself leaning toward the craft scene of America for kicks. Brewers like Dogfish Head, New Belgium and Rogue seem so experimental, so different that when I visit my beer supplier I can’t help myself but load up on what’s new from the Land of Hope and Glory (TM).

Even in homebrewing, something I am becoming increasingly more immersed in, my first beer wasn’t an ESB, or a London Porter; It was a California Common – using Anchor Steam Beer as a template. I think this all stems from my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale obsession.
I remember the first time I tried it. It was chosen simply on the colour of the label and design of the logo – and that I was pig-sick of lagers, or rather, what we call lagers in the UK. Upon pouring it, I smelled the sweet, bitter tang and knew that I was on the verge of something new. But nothing could prepare me for the taste.

On the sip, a decent, malt-biscuit body subsides to reveal flavours of – at first – boiled sweets and candy to me. Sweetness subsides to that famous Hop profile – lots of citrus, lots of pine. Then comes the bitterness, just enough to leave a long, dry finish that results in a massively moreish beer. Serve it colder and it’s sparklingly thirst-quenching; serve it warmer and it’s even more complex. Perfectly balanced, you wouldn’t believe it’s actually 5.6% abv.
I still stock up on it, and it’s my ‘go-to’ beer if it’s on tap somewhere. Just to try it. Just to see how they keep it. I’m like a crack whore with SNPA – I could be faced with a thousand taps and I would choose one beer that I have not tried and one SNPA.

It’s not just me – I can honestly say I have converted more people to beer via SNPA than any other beer. Many of my convertees now lap up real ale from good, honest UK micros all having their tastebuds exploded open by the ray of Californian Sunshine that is SNPA. Sierra Nevada are no longer small, or even ‘cutting edge’ now that the rest of the US has caught them up. It may not be esoteric, ‘extreme’ or even cool in this country - But SNPA is my favourite, desert island beer. Without a doubt. For me, and I suspect many others around the world, that first sip of SNPA was the start of something special.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Goose Island's Matilda

Well, I'm a sucker for American Craft Beer and Cool labels. So what. I'm into design, and Goose Island's Matilda really caught my eye - and I'm glad it did. My favourite Belgian beer, without a doubt, is Orval, and what we have seems to be a bit of a Chicagoan Homage to that sweet, sweet beer ( A truncated version of the Orval 'Mathilda's Wedding Ring' myth is elegantly transcribed on the label). So far, So good.

It pours dark amber, with that familiar phenolic/banana nose that Orval displays albeit a little softer. So far so good. Matilda, however, proves to be a much simpler girl that Orval; much sweeter, with the hops coming through with bitterness long after the sip. Toffees and hard - candy flavours percolate, rather than the deeper clove and citrus you'd expect from a 'typical' Belgian - and I guess that's where the American influence comes in.

Don't take that as a negative review - I loved it, and would happily drink more. It's almost too simple to say that Matilda is a straightahead American twist on a Belgian classic - but it is.