One of the overlooked English counties, well overlooked by me at least, is Northamptonshire. It just seems to be one of those places that you pass by going between A and B and rarely gets a look in when one thinks of places to visit. But there again, this is a beer blog and not a post on behalf of the county's tourist board. So why am I interested in it. Well, it actually houses two breweries that I am quite partial to. No not the one called Carslberg, a massive fizz producing factory, that is housed there, but a couple of smaller real ale ones that occasionally make their way to the King Head and when they arrive on the bar are often worthy of attention.
Great Oakley brewery have been around since May 2005, but moved to new premises in February 2012 in a small village outside Towcester. For a while I overlooked their beers, being a bit malty for my taste but then 'Wagtail' appeared. A revelation; light, hoppy and very easily drinkable. An ideal session beer. It has great floral notes, and the New Zealand hops in the brew impart a clean, fresh bitterness. And due to its success is now part of the breweries regular portfolio of beers. This has been joined by 'Wot's Occurring'. Another 3.9% beer but a totally different beer. This time an amber beer, and less hoppy but again well received, and good enough to be a Beer of Britain finalist at the GBBF for 2 out of the last 3 years. Add the 4.5% 'Gobble' to the list and there are 3 light(ish) beers that any brewery could be well proud of. And that is without their excellent 'Delapre Dark' , with its burnt, roast and cholocate undertones, and the 5% 'Tailshaker' that is a stronger beer that perfectly complements their weaker cousins. If you have not come across them, hunt them out, they are certainly worth the effort.
Kettering is home to another of the county's excellent breweries. Potbelly have been brewing since 2005 and use a 10 barrel plant. Their pump clips all depict cartoon pigs, and quite frankly are not to my taste but the beer certainly is. Their regular beer range consists of 6 beers that cover all types, and are supplemented by seasonal and monthly specials. These are rarely seen in our part of the world but their regualrs often make an appearance. Like Great Oakley, their beer did not do much for me at first, but some of their range now just hit the spot. 'Pigs Do Fly' is a 4.4% beer, single hopped with Styrian Goldings to make a far too easy drinking golden beer; the same is even more true of 'Inner Daze' that weighs in at 5.5%. A light coloured beer that is subtly hopped, it does not drink its strength. However, the classic in the range, in my opinion, is their 'HopTrotter'. Spicy, citrus, and with a pleasant kick complemented by a light malty aftertaste, another beer that is great for drinking on a summer's day.
Like I said, the beers are not always easy to find, but when you do find them they are well worth the wait. I may even have to take to a visit to Northamptonshire and take a look round. Who knows. I may be even more impressed.