I’m sure most of our readers have noticed that we Aleheads have a bit of a bias toward American brews. Sure, we throw plenty of Belgians out there and the occasional German, but for the most part we discuss, review, and revere American beers above all others. I guess it’s a simple matter of drinking what’s available to all of us and an overwhelming desire to talk about local thirsts. In any case, I want everyone out there to know that Aleheads love the imports as much as anyone. Just because they don’t make our pages as often, doesn’t mean we’re not drinking em’ up in mass quantities. After all, we’re drunks, but certainly not discerning drunks. With that in mind, I wanted to bring attention to a beer from Tadcaster’s Samuel Smith Old Brewery that somehow escaped my clutches for far too long. It’s time to review the Yorkshire Stingo.
Brother Barley has shared the merits of jolly old England’s most exquisite brewery, but other than a few notes here and there we don’t bring up Samuel Smith nearly enough. Their Nut Brown Ale and Oatmeal Stout are of course the quintessential examples of the style that are rarely if ever equalled. The Taddy Porter, exquisite. Imperial Stout, hell yes. IPA, Winter Welcome, Tadcaster Bitter, Pale Ale – The list of incredible beers from this brewery is almost endless. The Yorkshire Stingo though, I knew absolutely nothing about. Call that a fault on me since I’m paid to know these things, but when I saw the Yorkshire Stingo staring up at me from the package store shelf I knew this was something that I needed to have*. Before the tasting note, let’s get a little background on the brew that I stole right from the label and the interwebs.
*Yeah, I’ve never been nor will I ever be paid a red cent to “Know these things”.
Most of Sam Smith’s beers are fermented in open-top Yorkshire Squares (See picture at left). For those of you that don’t know a great deal about brewing, let me just throw out some words and phrases so you understand what that means – Seriously? Holy Shit! That’s crazy! How do they do that? That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. I know, that doesn’t explain much but should help you understand how I feel about that process. These “Squares” are formed from solid slabs of slate that along with their specialized yeast strain, that’s been in use since the 18th century, gives the beer a full, rich, slightly sour finish. Tangy is a good word to use there. Once this Strong Ale is fully fermented it’s then aged in oak casks for over a year, picking up the flavors and nuances of the beers that previously resided within. The beer is then bottle conditioned, only adding to the smoothness that one should expect in anything that comes from this fine establishment.
Poured from the classic 18.9oz vessel into an old-school nonic, the 9% Stingo shows off a deep mahogany colour with nary a wisp of head atop. While the head is lacking, expected from previous dealings with the style, the lacing was present from start to finish. What a powerful nose on this creature. Stone fruit, treacle, toffee, reminiscent of a Trappist Ale with Port undertones. Alcohol rises up at just the right point to wash away any lingering sweetness. The taste is exquisite – Utterly complex to the point that my mind grows weary just trying to pick out the individual notes. Toffee, raisins, caramel, sour grapes, all capped by a drying oak finish with hints of vanilla. Buttery tones are present, as they are in every beer ever created by these Tadcaster dynamos, but nothing overwhelming. Mouthfeel is syrupy at first but the oak aging leaves the drinker with a drying finish that brings everything together in perfect harmony. Little to no effervesce gives a slight knock to drinkability, but in the end it matters so little.
This wasn’t even a difficult rating to come up with, as 4 Hops almost seems too low. It used to be that I could be blown away from the darkest, richest Ales that England had to offer. I’m not sure where I lost my way, but I’m back on board big time. More to come from the land of tea and crumpets I’m sure.