Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Battle of the Bests- Northern Round

As those who have been following this blog will know, I am a big fan of the Saltaire Brewery in Yorkshire. Tandleman recently wrote of a negative experience with the breweries products so when I saw a new shipment of Saltaire XB had landed I had to have another try. As always I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to the world of English beer blogging as I only get to experience these beers from the bottle which have travelled a long and tiring journey.

I also picked up a couple of bottles of Theakston XB which I had never tasted before and had myself a bit of a taste off between the two Yorkshire best bitters.

Saltaire XB

I think this is my favourite Saltaire beer , when I first reviewed it back in August last year I commented that it might be “a little more balanced if served through a sparkler in the Yorkshire tradition”, I have changed my mind I love the serious bitterness it packs.

The late Michael Jackson described the Challenger hop as giving ‘quinine bitterness’ to beer. This beer perhaps better than any I have ever had presents that uncompromising Challenger bitterness in an enormously satisfying way.

The label lists dark crystal malt and crystal rye malt no doubt contributing to the complex yet dry malt flavours in the beer. This one certainly still rings my bells.

Saltaire XB (second tasting feb 08)

4.3% abv

Pours a rich copper with a tight white head. Aroma features spicy earthy hops, anis and perhaps berry fruit present, with a pleasing hint of iodine. On the palate dry caramel malt flavours blend with a militant early hop bitterness, unidentifiable fruity notes and that massive bitter ‘quinine’ finish but also lasting nutty malt flavours. It is certainly a classic ‘so bitter you better have another sip’ kind of beer.

Theakston XB

Apart from the famous Old Peculier which I enjoy, this is the first of the Theakston beers I have tried. Theakston is a family brewer who after stumbling into Scottish and Newcastle ownership and inspiring the establishment of the Black Sheep Brewery next door, reclaimed their independence .

Theakston XB certainly had an identifiable house character which can also be identified in Old Peculier. Ultimately this example was very tired and not really in fit state to do battle with the young upstart from Saltaire, however I do think that the Theakston XB would have been a far less interesting example of a Yorkshire best even in its prime.

Theakston XB

4.5% abv

Poured a dark gold with a white creamy head. Aroma features crisp nutty malt, a fruity earthy note and a oxidised character. On the palate there is creamy sweet malt, tussocky hops, a peachy note, oxidised hops and even a little cardboard, leading to a balanced finish. Not in great nick but probably a sound but unexciting beer when in condition.


yalnikim said...

I too am a big fan of the Saltaire beers, especially the lower gravity ones I tried. They did seem to have a little problem with huskiness (more of a tickle than a major problem). Love the extraordinarily descriptive labels.

I like the Spy Valley wines for the same reason. Pretty solid wines and highly descriptive, educational labels.

Paul Garrard said...

Theakston is one Yorkshire brewery that I usually don't mind. I'm not keen on over bittered beers. I have a theory about why Yorkshire beer is often very bitter but as I've down enough insulting recently I won't share my thoughts on this occasion.

Martin said...

I tried one of the Saltaire beers at the Great British Beer Festival last year (unfortunately can't remember which one) and wasn't that impressed. It just didn't seem an integrated, harmonious whole. There was a lot of hop in there and a little bit of fruitiness, but it didn't seem to come together.

However, I would give it another chance if I could find any such beers up here in Auckland :(

By the way - I think this is the first time I've visited your blog and seen the word "zilch" in the On Tap list! I'm shocked and stunned.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Zilch has been there a fair bit over this hot summer, although its actually an error right now as I have just hooked up a keg of porter which while having fermented to warm is tasting ok.

I will see if I can bring you up a bottle at the end of the month.

Martin said...

Yes, without the temperature controlled fridge I doubt I would have been brewing this summer. Glad to hear the new fermenters are working out OK.

I'll be very chuffed if you bring some beer up, but no worries if you can't. I might bring in a bottle of one of mine for an expert opinion.