GAVIN AITCHISON tries some ale that’s top of the chocs!

HAS a beer ever captured the essence of a city quite as well as this? I think not. Rudgate Brewery’s latest creation, launched on Thursday night, is a fantastic piece of work – and I don’t say that simply because it’s a lovely beer.

I say it because the beer, York Chocolate Stout, seems to beautifully represent the flavours and true craftsmanship that made York famous in days of yore. It’s a delicious acknowledgement of the city’s chocolate heritage and fame.

In a nutshell – to drink a glass of this is to drink a glass of history.

The idea of chocolate beer is not new in itself. Numerous breweries have been down that road before, some with greater success than others.

Saltaire’s, for example, is regularly available in York, while Marble in Manchester does a truly tremendous version. But nowhere are such beers more appropriate than in York. And rarely can they have been made with such meticulous attention to detail as this.

Local marketing firm LazenbyBrown, which had been working on Rudgate’s rebranding, came up with the idea, but Craig Lee at the brewery and Sophie Jewett at the York Cocoa House in Blake Street are the magicians in the act.

They worked together tirelessly to find the perfect recipe, Craig producing a base stout and Sophie coming up with an array of possible chocolates to complement it.

Generic flavours were an absolute no-no, she says. Instead, they wanted an ingredient that was genuinely distinctive, and Sophie was positive that the beer should be flavoured with actual chocolate, rather than being given an artificial cocoa-esque flavour.

In the end, they opted for chocolate made with Trinitario cocoa beans from the Santander region of Colombia – and the result is terrific.

I found the chocolate more subtle than in most such beers, stronger in the aftertaste than in the initial sup, but it gives the beer a really enjoyable richness and depth. Certainly at Thursday’s launch, at The House of the Trembling Madness in Stonegate, the reaction seemed to be overwhelmingly positive.

Craig says they wanted the chocolate to be subtle so it didn’t overpower the complexity of the stout, and says Sophie has ensured they struck the perfect balance. As for the idea as a whole, he says: “York is the home of chocolate and Yorkshire is Britain’s brewing capital and when LazenbyBrown approached us with the idea, it made sense to combine the two.”

They certainly timed the launch well, on the eve of this weekend’s first York Chocolate Festival, and if you are about in the city centre this weekend, you could do a lot worse than head for Stonegate to give it a try. Bottles should be available shortly, and other pubs will be getting it on cask too, but for now it’s in The House of the Trembling Madness.

That it will appeal to seasoned beer drinkers almost goes without saying. But more than most beers, it should appeal also to anyone who enthuses about the city in general.

York Chocolate Stout is a fitting nod to our sweet past. And it will be a worthy standard-bearer for the city when it finds its way into pubs and bars across the country.


• A new roof garden has been opened at the Golden Lion in Church Street.

• The Slip Inn in Clementhorpe, York, and Suddaby’s at the Crown Hotel, Malton, are both holding beer festivals on the weekend of April 20-22.

Follow Gav on twitter @pintsofview for beery news, views and chat all week.