Every month The Sportsman tries to have a brewery takeover, with the entire bar being dedicated to the breweries beers and a tutored 'Meet The Brewer' tasting session. January's 'victim' was Stuart Neilson of the North Riding Brewery in Scarborough.
I didn't manage to make the evening session but an early visit to the pub yesterday revealed that the whole beer range was still available, so all was not lost,
The brewery has been going for quite a few years, initially at the eponymous hotel in Scarborough's North Bay (well worth a visit in it's own right incidentally) and because of demand the brewery enlarged and moved to an industrial estate outside the town in March last year. The pub does still brew but the beers that I sampled were all from the new brewery.
There were 8 on offer in total, seven light, one dark. Three of them were from the brewery core range, the others being part of a session series. To take the core ones first it seemed sensible to start with the weaker and go stronger.
'US Sessions IPA' was what it said on the tin. A light, hoppy beer made with Citra, Chinook, and Willamette hops (obviously all from the US) and 3.8%. And a fine session beer it is. The next two were both single hopped 'Citra Pale (4.5%) and 'Mosaic Pale (4.3%). Citra used to be my favourite hop, and this brew was very acceptable with a decent body to showcase it, but when taken side by side with Mosaic it tasted a little - dare I say - boring. The Mosaic was bursting with fresh hop flavour and has overtaken it in my league table.
The specials also included three single hopped beers. 'Azzacca' is a newish Amercian hop. At 4.3% at decent but not outstanding beer, likewise was '484' another experimental Amercian hop. I would like to sample more of this to make a proper judgement but on this sample I would say that it may be better used in concert with other hops rather than as a single hopped beer. 'Centennial' was another single hop beer. Another old favourite and it was easy to see why, with plenty of fruit in the taste and a more bitter taste than the previous samples.
The last light beer was a 'proper' IPA; this time 'NZ IPA' - 5.5% and showcasing Nelson Sauvin hops. This was a more rounded beer that the weaker ones I had tried before, it did drink its strength but it did show off the hop excellently. But the real star of the show, which I had not really expected was the single dark beer 'Black Horizon'. Fair enough,it was 6.7% and had enough body to make it a great beer, but the balance of malt and hop was superb and the result was a beer I would gladly drink more of, but at the end of a session, its flavours would overtake anything coming after.
So what did I learn? Quite a lot actually. It was good to sample several single hopped beers side by side and it brought out why I liked certain hops over other ones. It also reinforced my opinion that Mr Neilson is one of the best brewers about, and I thank him, and John at the Sportsman for the chance to sample the range.