Monday, 28 February 2011

A Day in the Life of York Beer


Twissup : (noun) - The peripatetic coming together of tweeting beer lovers in order to indulge in their favourite pastimes of drinking beer and talking hop.

I found myself in a strange town surrounded by people like me with one common interest that bound us together like hops on a trellis - The love of good beer. York was to be the destination for the third Twissup and since I had missed the previous two in Burton and Manchester, this was one that was pencilled into my diary as soon as it was announced. Not for all the Humulus Lupulus in Kent was I going to miss this Twissup.

So, with bag packed and tickets in hand, we set off, Mrs Monkey and I, on the three and a half hours journey south through the stunning Scottish Borders and Northern English scenery along the cliff hugging North Eastern train line. The journey was made even more enjoyable by the couple of cans of Brewdog Punk IPA that I had brought along for some extra company. It felt good drinking nice beer from a can but I was kicking myself for not lifting the can of Caldera IPA that I had also looked out for the journey. Never mind, I thought. I'm sure there will be some lovely beers where we were going.

Brigantes Beer Board

The plan was for everyone to meet up outside York Brewery at midday but since we had arrived an hour prior to this it seemed a waste not to try and find a nice pub and to start the day the way we meant to continue - with a lovely pint in our hand. A quick tweet to see if anyone had had the same idea revealed that there were a few drinking in that York Institution, The Maltings. No sooner had the tweet back come into my timeline, we were in a taxi travelling the 150 yards from the station to the pub. The price of a pint for a two minutes taxi journey was probably not my best move of the day but how was I to know that it was just around the corner from the station?

A pint of very nice Black Sheep Best Bitter was our reward for our inverse tardiness. Smashing. Pint swiftly despatched we made our way up to meet the other beerheads outside York Brewery for our tour and tasting. After a quick half of York's Motueka, which was a nice, light and refreshing single hopped beer, we were shepherded in by Mick, our guide for the next hour, to where the brewing action takes place. Mick gave a dryly funny and enjoyable talk about the brewing process before we headed back to the bar for some rather nice York First Light.

Our beers finished, we said our appreciative goodbyes to Mick and went down some stairs, took a few strange turns in the lane below the brewery, opened a door expecting to be out in to the street but instead found ourselves, Lion, Witch and Wardrobe style, in the back of a pub called Brigantes. They had a good range of European keg beers as well as Cask Ales. The huge assortment of pumpclips adorning the walls and ceiling included some of the finest beers around were a testament to the pubs commitment to serving lovely beer. This was a pub that I could have spent a lot of time in but after a pint of Paulaner and a half of Timmerman's Peche we were off out the pub and on our way to a pub that I had heard lots of good things about and was itching to pay my first visit to.

Pivni, has a reputation far beyond York's city walls for serving a superb selection of world beers and their range when we were in was exceptional. On keg and cask were three Bernard beer including the superb Bernard OX Specialni, Four BrewDog'd including their mild Edge and Riptide, Camden Town Pale Ale and some Belgian Fruit beers. York residents clearly have Viking genes as I witnessed more than a few locals order two pint glass steins of 6% plus beers. They weren't part of our 'responsible' drinking party, I may add.

I contained myself and instead went for a pint that I'm very familiar with due to it's regularity in my favourite London pub, The Jolly Butcher's. Camden Town Pale Ale. It was as stunning as always and it was really good to see quality London beers making an impact outside of the capital city. A few other beers were sunk in here including a lovely BrewDog Edge and some Trashy Blonde.

clean sweep of Hardknott beers

The beer of the day for me was consumed in Pivni but not bought there. It was a pre release sample brought along by Cumbrian Brewer par excellence - Dave from Hardknott Brewery. I was very fortunate to be offered a taste of Hardknott's latest offerings: their Imperial Stout Aether Blaec which has been aged in oak casks which used to contain 27 year old Inchgower and 28 year old Balmenach Whisky. These are strictly limited to 960 bottles and should be available through My Brewery Tap. The Aether Blaec Balmenach just edged it for me with it's more rounded, smoother flavour. A very big thanks to Hardknott Dave, Ann and Sooty for a taste of these cracking beers.

Food was needed and we found it in The House of Trembling Madness which sits above the beer geek nirvana of a bottle shop appropriately called The Bottle. A palete cleansing glass of the German classic, Jever accompanied my Hunter's platter of delicious cold meats and salad. A cheeky half of Kwak followed and a chance meeting with some great folk from York Uni Real Ale Society. Barely in their twenties, their passion and enthusiasm for great beer was superb and we were all soon on our way to our next rendevous, a pub on the edge of York City walls called the Rook and Gaskill which is a nice enough pub with a wide selection of over a dozen pumps serving mainly castle Rock and Ossett beers as well as a handsome selection of U.S. and European bottles.

We had now hooked up with Gav Aitchison, The York Press's Beer and Pubs writer, and he promised to take us round some of his favourite pubs. We headed next to the Waggon and Horses where I had a Braun Ale called Kraftwerk by a West Yorkshire Brewery, Revolutions. They have an interesting beer concept. They only produce beers of 3.3%, 4.5% and 7.8% which are "inspired by, and pay homage to, music from an analogue age". The beer was very nice.

The Phoenix Pub which sits almost on the shoulder of the city walls was to be our penultimate pub and was an absolutely stunning example of a Victorian era town pub. It date backs to 1830 and is now in the hands of a retired maths professor who has made some minor enhancements to the pub but has kept it true to the spirit of a genuine victorian bar. It is not hyperbole to say that it's possibly one of the finest pubs that I have had the pleasure of being in. It was homely, inviting and I could spend a lifetime there.

The Phoenix

We were all beginning to flag now as it approached the witching hour and it was nearly time to crash but not before a night cap in the Golden Ball. I wish I could tell you more about it but to be totally honest, I have some photos and a note of what beer I had, Ilkley Leeds Pale, but my 'tiredness' has affected my memory.


It was time to retire but I went to my bed very happy to have shot the breeze and drunk some very fine beers with some lovely knowledgeable beerheads.

Special thanks must go to Mark and Andy for organising it, Gavin for being our impromptu evening beer guide, The York Uni real Ale people for their ale enthusiasm, Richard from The Beer Cast, Tom from Pivni, Rob from Beer Lens, The Hardknotts and everyone else that we met who made the entire day so enjoyable.

Oh, and Johnathan Queally for being a 21st Century Beer Legend.

Until the next one...........

Footnote - Apologies to the The Swan and Slip Inn for neglecting to mention them in the write up. They were the last two that we visited however a combination of too much beer and pickled eggs had wiped that part of the evening from my short term memory. Thanks to Gav and The Swan for reminding me. I suppose that sort of sums York up. A fantastic friendly city with simply too many pubs to remember. It's a great beer drinker's city and one you should consider paying a visit.



  1. Nice write up! It was a fun day and great to meet you. I already want to return to York to see the pubs and city again. Glad you got to a few other places after we left and you had the right person to lead you in Gav.

    I'm totally with you on the new Aether Blaec being the beers of the day (and we had some good beer). What cracking beers they are.

    One question though... "it was nearly time to crash but not before a night cap in the Slip Inn" is this a euphemism?!

  2. @Mark

    Possibly a Freudian slip!

    boom! boom!

  3. There's a Slip Inn near my house and it is based on a euphemism I'm told!!

  4. Love the write up.

    I Had a great time and was a pleasure meeting everyone!



  5. Was good to meet you and Mrs Monkey. Glad to see there was still much fun to be had after I took an early bath. Do you know there's a photo of you taking the photo of Hardknott Sooty on Beer Lens?

  6. @Tom

    Great to meet you too. Thanks for the excellent hospitality at Pivni.


    The fun lasted right up to closing time and given thet I've managed to miss out the last two pubs that we visited from the blog perhaps indicates the toll that a day out in York took out on me. I'll need to update.
    i saw mr beer lens' pic of me snapping sooty and it is a cracking pic, particularly in its black and white format.
    We'll be back down your way over easter so it'll be good to crack open a beer or two with you and continue where we left off in York

  7. Definitely! We're going to be in the Lakes for a wee bit over Easter but let us know when you're coming down.