Thursday, 19 April 2012

A young man's favourite beers part 2


    here is the second part of my top 20 Desert Island beers from 1996, when I was nobbut babby. Choices eleven through twenty should hopefully throw up as many points as the first ten...

11. Jolly Boat Bideford Plunderer, Fat Cat, Sheffield, July 1995 - "it was dark, it was sweet(ish) and it was BIG. And I loved it"

12. Kelham Island Fat Cat Pale Ale, Derby Tup, Chesterfield, March 1995 - "the ideal accompaniment to a heart meal - at the Fat Cat or Derby Tup for example"

13. Mill Brewery St Patrick's Ale, Cask and Cutler, Sheffield, March 1995 - "the best St Patrick's day beer I tried, and the best stout I had for ages after"

14. Ridleys Winter Ale, Small Beer Off License, Sheffield December 1994 (consumed elsewhere!) - "one of three amazing beers I had from Small Beer in December, this wins by a whisker because it was so many beers rolled into one"

15. Titanic Stout, Tap and Spile, Sheffield June 1995 - "I was in need of a thick, robust and huge tasting dark beer"

16. Tomlinsons Richard's Defeat Porter, The Beer Exchange, Leeds, December 1994 - "I only had it a few times, and picking out a favourite time was difficult, but this was the time I probably enjoyed it most"

17. Townes Pynot Porter, The Dore Junction, Sheffield, September 1994 - "this is what made me take notice of Townes, and carrying on with the undoubted quality of this porter, they've never brewed a bad beer since"

18. Vaux Extra Special, The Grouse Inn, Longshaw, Derbyshire, October 1995 - "It was really easy to drink for a beer of that strength, and had a brilliant fruity aftertaste - I can't wait to try it again"

19. Whim Hartington bitter, Cask and Cutler, Sheffield, September 1995 - "whats best is, it tastes bloody wonderful every time. My favourite bitter."

20. Woodfordes Stout Cat, The Fat Cat, Sheffield, August 1995 - "I was a bit broke, but still opted for three pints of this inbetween sampling the other beers"

So that's it. A twenty three year old real ale drinker appraises the best of the scene between 1993 and 1995. And thank god I recorded the venues as well - I can even remember who I was with at the time on some of the occasions described (at my age!)

Once again there are some defunct pubs, like the Dore Junction, the Tap and Spile (in so far as its changed name, hands, and doesn't sell real ale) and the Beer Exchange in Leeds closed pubs entry here , as well as some rather odd flavour characteristics ticking my boxes - sweet? Am I sure this was me?

Mind you, there are a large number of dark beers in there. And across the list, there are some national brewers beers, like Vaux, and the Allsopps recreation in list one was brewed at Tetley Walker I think. The fact that I seemed to drink and find my favourite beers in the Fat Cat and Cask and Cutler almost exclusively is telling, because at that stage the Valley of Beer didn't exist.

And, once again, there are some beers that I still rate - Hartington Bitter, Titanic Stout, Townes Pynot Porter (assuming they still brew it, can't access their website properly in my browser), and the Derby Tup and Small Beer, now the Archer Road Beer Stop, still appear in the GBG.  Its nice to see some consistency over the last three decades.

The final point is, how many of these beers were very hoppy?

Almost none! Only Whim's beer had any prominent hops, and there was almost no mention of the pale citrussy beers we see today. So from that you could draw the conclusion that in the early nineties, (given that I was able to write the list having tried a plethora of different beers from across the UK) regional and national beers were perhaps more popular, and the micro brewers made more "traditional" ales. I don't remember tasting really hoppy beers until Freeminer Trafalgar IPA appeared in bottles along with Burton Bridge Empire Pale Ale, both of which I bought lots of between 2000 and 2003.

Perhaps I need to do a new Top Twenty in 2012 and see how my tastes and the microbrewing world's tastes have changed.

Wee Beefy


  1. Surely Whim Hartington Best Better was/is a "really hoppy beer" and something of a revelation in its day. I mentioned it here, which must have been written about 15 years ago. At the time it would certainly have been on my Top Ten list, although I don't see it so often nowadays.

    I actually made a foray out to Whim Farm with John Clarke in the early 90s to talk to Giles Litchfield about the brewery before it opened.

  2. Well, I didn't linger on the Whim point because although it was quite a new sort of taste to my palate, I wanted to highlight just how many of the beers I rated were far more malty and rounded in flavour than those which I'd enjoy today.

    I first tried Whim at the Valley Lodge in Bradwell (now also closed I think) and the landlord told me it was the most inconsistent beer he'd ever had, and that Whim held the record for the earliest and latest deliveries he'd received. No matter what version the beer was though, he insisted it always tasted brilliant. I concur.

    Mind you it was something of an enigma for a long time, even though I regularly drank in Derbyshire free houses it was rarely spotted. Its nearly always on at he Charles Cotton in Hartingrton and the Lathkil Hotel in over haddon if you are out that way.

  3. The Valley Lodge appears to have been renamed the Shoulder of Mutton (perhaps that was its original name). It looks open on StreetView but obviously may have bitten the dust since then.

    1. Actually, no, I think you may have a point. I heard a couple of times (albeit in last few years) about the S.O.M in Bradwell and couldn't figure out where it was. Must try and get out there for a peak...

    2. Still seems open on their website as well, but such a strong emphasis on B&B is discouraging. BITE mentions real ales a lot, but under new management now. Still three pubs to go at in Bradwell it appears...

  4. Townes Pynot Porter is still going strong, although it's not a beer I come across as often as I'd like.

    Bit suprised to see a Ridley's beer on the list.

  5. Well, me too, except I had only been drinking a few years and there was a noticable lack of "different" or inovative brews on the market in the early nineties.

    I had a taste of six of the Ridleys range at the Tap and Spile in Sheffield in 1994 and loved the Witchfinder Porter especially. In later years, Ridleys and neighbours Cobbold especially stagnated as micro brewers forged ahead and now its just Greedy King rebadge.

  6. Well I lived in Chelmsford from 1998 and my experiences of Ridley's beers were not positive in the slightest. Happily Essex breweries are much better these days.

    1. Yeah, Crouch Vale and Mighty Oak stand out, there's two brew pubs in Brightlingsea and a smattering of other brewers to choose from I hear.

      I wonder if Ridley's were just rubbish at quality control in their pubs? Dave at Small Beer (as twas then) always kept his beers on stillage for a complimentary length of time, and trying them in the nearest pub to the brewery in 2001 ish they were excellent. Doesn't matter though now, they probably taste of Kimberley King....

    2. To give you an example of a Ridley's pub, the Ship in Chelmsford (their flagship pub) had lagers and Guiness in the best possible condition, but the Ridley's beers were undrinkable, and I found Ridley's beers similarly undrinkable in every other one of their pubs, which made me avoid their beers if I saw them as guest ales.

      Greedy King took them over for their pub estate and shut the brewery down ASAP. I think "Old Bob" is the only Ridley's beer still being produced.

    3. Hadn't really thought about that, I assumed they would have kept the brands going but maybe not, especially if the ABV's were too similar in Greedy King's already massive range.

      The best beer Ridleys brewed of course was Kelham Island Pale Rider...