Welcome To Yorkshire: Fancy A Brew?

My article on brewing and pubs for the annual Welcome To Yorkshire magazine.

Welcome To Yorkshire This Is Y Beer

 

Fancy a brew? – A guide to Yorkshire’s best beer and boozers

The county’s beer brewing tradition stretches back hundreds of years but recently production has moved Yorkshire and its pubs into a new and exciting era.

Think of Yorkshire beer and your mind probably leaps straight to Theakstons, John Smiths or Tetley – all long-established and hugely popular institutions – but working feverishly away in the county these days are a dazzling array of traditional brewers, micro-brewers, nano-brewers and brew pubs. So profuse in numbers are these beer-barmy mash-heads (in West Yorkshire alone there are 43 breweries producing 276 different ales) that there has never been more choice, more tastes or more opportunities to sample a pint of the very best of the Best.

The county’s breweries these days take the pick of the imported essentials (hops, yeast), the best local ingredients (barley, water) and add good old Yorkshire knowledge, experience and a sense of taste that’s been bred-in over the last couple of centuries. The resulting brews delight the palate and are the envy of the world.

Upholding the traditional values are two bigger brands that you may well already know – Timothy Taylor and Black Sheep. There’s nary a town in the county that doesn’t feature at least one of their pubs and, along with Theakstons, Black Sheep offer a fantastic brewery tour if you’re passing Masham, where both are based.

Leading the pack amongst the newer, smaller brewers is Leeds Brewery; they’re a young, funky company currently taking over their home city and looking set to spread like yeast to the rest of the UK. Comparable set ups can be found at neighbouring Saltaire Brewery and just up the road at the York Brewery. All experiment with varying blends to create intriguing experimental flavours, unique yet somehow familiar. Places like Wold Top Brewery in East Yorkshire keep as much as possible in-house. They brew a range of beers from carefully selected hops and add them to barley grown in their own surrounding Wolds fields to make ales that as close as you can get to a genuine taste of the land.

For the more adventurous refreshment-seeker there are a profusion of micro-breweries. The increase in the number of artisanal, short run beers in recent times has been phenomenal; it now seems like every town, village and farmhouse has a tiny brewery turning out bespoke, unique ales. Micros like Roosters in Knaresborough or the Kelham Brewery in Sheffield rely on skilful, dedicated workers to turn out a few hundred pints of distinctive beer per week, most of which are only drunk in pubs within a twenty or thirty mile radius. Even smaller are the nano-brewers like Steel City Brewing from Sheffield and the recently created Brass Castle in Pocklington who brew their award-winning vegan ales in the garage of a terraced house.

Very often the distance from brewery to pump is just a few feet, with brew pubs like the Wellington Inn in Hull, Scarborough’s North Riding Brew Pub or the Sair Inn in Linthwaite making their own ales on the premises, some of which are retired forever once the barrel has runs dry.

Many dedicated real ale pubs pride themselves on seeking out and offering the best and most obscure local beers they can find. Try the Fat Cat in Sheffield, the Maltings in York or any of the railway station pubs along the Trans-Pennine Real Ale Trail (have a pint, take a train, have another – marvellous) to find the pick of the current crop of the county’s output.

And for those who want something to drink beyond a pint of beer? Well, Yorkshire boasts some of the friendliest, cosiest and most hospitable hostelries in the world. Whether it’s a pretty country inn or a handsome city centre hostelry you never have to go too far to find a proper pub.

The paragon of picturesque country pubs is South Dalton’s Pipe & Glass, which recently bumped one of Heston Blumenthal’s boozers off the top of Michelin’s Dining Pub of the Year list. Of similar standing is the marvellous Durham Ox in Crayke and the Star at Harome – you hesitate to call any of them gastro-pubs (it’s not a word that’ll win you many friends in God’s Own no-nonsense County) but they serve sensational locally-sourced food and drink of the sort that should delight even the most discerning gastronaut.

Throughout the county you’ll find heritage boozers of every hue. Most of the village pubs were made from local building materials and this embeds the aesthetic of the host village or town in the very fabric of the building. Many have changed little over the centuries. Pubs like the Moorcock Inn in Langdale End and nearby Birch Hall in Beck Hole both serve and define the communities in which they stand. In town, the Olde Black Boy and Olde White Harte in Hull, the Black Horse in Whitby, the Olde White Bear in Norwood Green, the Fighting Cock in Bradford and the living museum that is the mighty Nellies of Beverley all have walls, floors and bars lovingly preserved for the future but irreversibly warped by the merriments of the past. A swift half in any of them is as likely to turn into a history lesson as a bantering session.

Many other town and city hostelries date from the golden Georgian/ Victorian age of pub building, when the industrial money pouring into urban Yorkshire afforded even the simple corner local a grandeur beyond its humble purpose. Take a peek in or any of the dozens of unspoiled city centre pubs in York and Leeds and you can see tiled floors, elaborate carved bars and ornate fittings that demonstrate how important the simple pint has always been to Yorkshire folk.

So, welcome visitor; come on in, take yer coat off, get a warm on by the fire and let Yorkshire pull you a pint.

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Categories: Welcome To Yorkshire, Writing

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