I should be studying for tomorrow’s exam and I would be studying, had the builders not drilled and hammered the flat downstairs, where the hoarder who turned our lives into a nightmare for the better half of the past decade used to reside. So today’s entry is not procrastination, but rather an attempt to make the most of junk time. Anyway, English Beer Recap is becoming interesting, as I’m leaving the bottles behind and get to write about beers I drank from cask – which means that I’m finally getting to share anecdotes and images from the Real Ale Trail The Secret Agent and I took in September 2013.
A little background – 3 months into my new job at the time, launching a huge campaign that involved emails and phone calls during weekends, Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, lack of sleep and loss of vitality, The Secret Agent bought us tickets to Manchester. Initially he wanted us to go to Scotland, a long time dream of ours and back then – relevant more than ever, as I was managing both The Glenlivet and Chivas brands in the local market; however, due to the little time I had for proper holiday, we “settled” on Yorkshire. A peek at CAMRA website revealed that a festival in York was taking place at the time we were visiting, Good Beer Guide 2013 indicated that there are good pubs in Huddersfield, and thus an itinerary was constructed.
Let’s keep the personal mode here. I lived in Yorkshire in the 90’s. Fell in love with an English boy I met in Philadelphia, where his touring band was playing – I went backpacking from coast-to-coast, from record store to punk show – and moved in with him in Bradford. It was as intense as only first love can be – full of drama and with amazing background music. To stay within the blog’s realm, C and I drank cheap lagers in the local pubs and I discovered Hooch – the alcopop. I also discovered CAMRA then. Found a zine on the counter at the 1in12 – the local club/ anarchist community space/ info-shop – and picked it up. Had no idea what a Campaign for Real Ale meant, or what Real Ale is (though they served some at the 1in12 – I’m almost certainly sure!), but there was a heartfelt diatribe against the favourite beverage category of 19 y/o me – alcopop. I vaguely recall something about irresponsible drinking and lack of tradition, but maybe it’s adult me who thinks she remembers.
Back to the trip. Hotel rooms/ B&B/ Air BnB in Manchester, Huddersfield and York were booked and so was rental car, and some destinations were marked on the map: Bradford, of course, cos I haven’t been there since 2000, and cos I wanted The Secret Agent to visit the location of so many stories from my formative years; Masham – cos of Black Sheep and Theakston; and the Coast. Coast with capital C, because of the brilliant BBC series that we always get back to and never have enough from. As ambitious and thorough as a documentary series gets. Prior to the trip we watched the relevant episodes and decided that Scarborough and Whitby are a must. Rarely in the past couple of years do we decide on destination first and look for watering holes second, but In Good Beer Guide Book And App We Trust. Oh, and some Yorkshire Dales and Moors and country pubs were also on my wishlist.
Before we went, I went through my list of beers from the book. I was determined to drink most of the beers who were listed, but into the second day of our trip I realized that it’s not gonna happen; cask ales distribution depends on so many factors such as pub owners (free house or chain-bound?); regional distribution is a big thing in the world of casks; and ever-changing selection is also something that characterizes good pubs.
This introduction took too much beer-text space, so let’s get rid of the non-English cask beers from the list. Deuchars IPA hails from Caledonian Brewing Company in Scotland. I found it in a small pub named Ye Dolphin, a small pub in the small coastal town Robin Hood Bay – as picturesque as it gets and one of our favourite spots in this amazing trip. Narrow and steep streets that lead to the foot of the sea, quaint alleys and the end of the English coast-to-coast trail.
You can see that there’s a seating area outside, and although the weather that day was t-shirt friendly, beergeeks tend to be indoor patrons, where it’s easier to focus on the brew and dwell in the atmosphere. According to the 2008 Book, Deuchars is Scotland’s best-selling cask ale. Book states it’s a 4.4% abv., ratebeer begs to differ and indicated 3.8%. Our beer was clear, golden and had white head. Its aroma was fruity, like preserved fruit, exotic fruit syrup like Monin Passion Fruit, and also had some piss notes. Mild bitter, English hops were apparent in the mouth. Light body, oily, malty finish.
Second non-English Beer in this English beer recap is Dr Okells IPA from the Isle of Mann. We had it in Old Bell Tavern in Harrogate, a busy place in a location that used to be a toffee shop that also carries a large varieties of bottled and imported beer in a marvelous spa town. We were too busy drinking beer to visit the baths – next time. Last summer someone brought a bottle of this beer to a tasting. It was mediocre at best; however, from cask it was delicious! Clear pale gold with a frothy white head. Slightly citrusy aroma, beet and fresh cut red apples. Bitter and grainy and robust. Medium body, a little carbonated and bitter finish – perfect English India Pale Ale, or Manx, in this case. There are two more beers from Okell’s in the book and I hope to get to drink them soon.
Dr. Okell IPA and Deuchars IPA are beers #398 and #399 I Must Try Before I Die. More of the Real Ale Trail beers to come :)