GAVIN AITCHISON finds that almost any flavour goes into beer these days, even saffron, of all things.
WEIRD and wonderful flavours abound in beer these days.
Once upon a time, malt and hops held an impenetrable duopoly, but today countless upstarts are demanding attention – and British brewers are bending over backwards to experiment.
Flavours seen in York in recent years include coconut, cherry, chocolate and coriander; liquorice, lime, rhubarb and rum; marmalade, blueberry, pineapple, spearmint, hazelnut, grapefruit and more.
This week though, drinkers have another curiosity to seek out: the region’s only known saffron beer.
Brass Castle’s Heretic, a Belgian blonde beer, has appeared in York only once before. At the 2012 Beer and Cider Festival on Knavesmire, it was sold as a “guess the flavour” cask ale – and proved more than a little divisive.
Brewer Phil Saltonstall dubbed it a “Marmite beer”, due to the mixture of delight and dismay it generated, but he has tweaked the recipe, produced a version in keg instead of cask, and sent it out to a handful of York’s finest pubs.
The new version has an ABV of 6.4 per cent and is closer to Phil’s early prototypes in bottle, he says. That bodes well. I was fortunate to try this back in 2011, just as Brass Castle was launching, and thought it was fantastic. It was spicy but well-rounded and would make an ideal accompaniment to a curry, I remember saying.
The Maltings in Tanner’s Moat, The Rook & Gaskill in Lawrence Street, The York Tap at the station and The Duke of York in King’s Square have all been supplied this week, and if it’s not on by the time you read this then you won’t have long to wait.
The Duke of York will have it on the bar from next Thursday to Saturday as part of its latest “war of the roses” event, an inter-brewery battle between Brass Castle and Moorhouse’s of Burnley. Alongside the Heretic, each brewery will have four cask ales on the bar and drinkers can vote for their favourites.
As well as trying the Heretic, fans of Brass Castle may see it as a good chance to see the firm’s re-branded beers and to see how they have fared in the brewery’s recent move from Pocklington to Malton.
Don’t forget, the Sutton Beer Festival takes place from 1pm today at the Sutton-Upon-Derwent village hall, in conjunction with Woodhouse Grange Cricket Club.
There will be a dozen beers, live Six Nations rugby on TV, food and live music. Tickets are £10 including programme, glass, pint and pie & peas.
The new Bridlington Real Ale Festival will take place at The Spa on March 7 and 8. There will be beer, cider, food and music from around Yorkshire.
Organiser James Harper said: “The venue is perfect for a beer festival and we want this one to be one of the best in the UK.” Tickets are from £5 and can be bought at www.thespabridlington.com/realalefestival or by phoning 01262 678258.