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Andrew Liddle
Features Writer
10:30 AM 17th April 2020

Beer Of The Week: Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter

Sam’s Old Brewery Bitter is my beer of the week.

Shire Horses near Stutton. Photos by Samuel Smiths Brewery
Shire Horses near Stutton. Photos by Samuel Smiths Brewery
Samuel Smith’s, of Tadcaster, Yorkshire’s oldest brewery and still family-run, always does its own thing and generally in the most traditional of ways. They still draw their water from their own bore hole sunk 85 feet deep in 1758 and still use wooden casks. Indeed, they still use the same strain of yeast favoured in Victorian times and now they have taken to delivering beer by horse again.

Yes, it’s true – if you live in the Tadcaster area, you can have your beer delivered right to your door by those proud, beautifully-groomed shire horses normally an impressive sight in and around town delivering barrels to pubs. The horses are stabled behind the Angel & White Horse, that excellent pub, always worth a visit, on Bridge Street.

Simon Crook, the stable manager, explains that the service had actually been started as a way to keep the horses fit and healthy on a daily basis now that they are not being employed to deliver to pubs. ‘They’re not show horses, they’re meant to work,’ he asserts with typical Yorkshire plain speaking. But the benefit to local morale has apparently been enormous. ‘We’re making people’s lives happier,’ he enthuses. ‘The children are absolutely loving it because they’ve got nothing to do now. They come out when they hear us, waving - but keeping their distance.’

He adds that he and his colleague make the deliveries with two horses five days a week, and wear gloves to offer protection against the virus.

Clearly, this illustrious brewery, which owns more than 200 pubs (where, incidentally, television, music, mobile phones, card payments and laptops are banned), sadly all presently closed, is responding to the challenging times in various ways. Simon Jenkins in his essential reading, The Yorkshire Beer Bible, describes the brewery as ‘fiercely, determinedly – sometimes maddeningly – traditional’. It is these northern qualities which will keep them going, continuing to produce their excellent ales to be sold in their excellent pubs, each lovingly preserved throwbacks to when pubs had individuality and personality and landlords!

And there is no ale better than their refreshing Old Brewery Bitter, a classic softly-carbonated north country bitter, mild in strength at 4 per cent, beautiful light golden amber in colour and with a rich creamy head. It has a semi-sweet taste, honeyed and nutty on the palate, malty, hoppy, with a hint of citrous and a clean aftertaste. It is a beer of character from a brewer who is not for changing. I love, not least, the amber cone-necked bottles.

I would like nothing better than to see my consignment coming down the road on a dray, a metaphor in a way for all that is good and wholesome, uncomplicated and beautiful about Sam Smith’s.

It’s almost worth a relocation to Taddy.