Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Spooky Coincidence

Just by chance, as the doors closed on Tetleys, I was down the road in Sheffield raising a glass of one the city's iconic beers which I had not seen for some time, and I was not impressed.

Stones bitter was first produced in Sheffield at the Cannon Brewery, in the early 1940s to slake the thirst of the local steelworkers. It soon became more of a religion than a beer in South Yorkshire and many remember the straw coloured beer with affection. Lets face it, in Sheffield you were either a Wards or Stones drinker, each had their own distinct flavour, and their faithful followers. Both breweries have closed.


The Cannon brewery, and the Stones brand were taken over by Bass in 1968, and gradually they altered the beer and started to add flaked maize and it started to fall out of favour, (and it started to give me a foul head every time I drank it !). Nevertheless it was awarded silver in the bitter category at the GBBF in 1991 - I was not on the judging panel! However soon it was a shadow of its former self with Bass preferring to promote other brands in its place, and by the late 1990's it was classed a niche brand. The Cannon brewery closed in 1999, and the beer was brewed in several different breweries within the Bass empire.

In spite of the falling sales some interest was shown in the brand, mainly for the keg and can market, which I think is brewed at their Worthington brewery, and then in 2007 the 'real' version was outsourced to Everards of Leicester, and it was their version I happened across in Sheffield.

I expected something that would transport me back to my youth, without the headache, but sadly I was let down. The colour was different, and the taste, which I seem to remember had a sharp tang to it, was bland and uninteresting. It was just another beer, and not a very good one at that. It just goes to show that trying to recreate the past does not always work. Whatever the big breweries lead us to believe. So whatever Carlsberg tell us about Tetleys, I am unconvinced it will not change, and not for the better.

In the interests of historical accuracy I thought I would see what the original tasting notes said about 'Stones Bitter'. Courtesy of Roger Protz and his 'Real Ale Almanac of 1997'.

The beer used Challenger hops for bitterness; Goldings and Progress for aroma.
'a fragrant dry hop aroma with light fruit notes, delicate malt in the mouth with mellow bitter finish, and summed up as a straw coloured beer with a delicate balance of hop, malt and light fruitiness'. Sounds a really good beer, wish they still brewed it! Sadly the Everards version is a mere shadow of the original but I have no tasting notes to compare them. Their website even seems to deny its existence.

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