The Halftime Pint: Black Sheep Ale

20120826-230940.jpgOne of the greater things about watching football in America is that most matches, especially those of the EPL, are early in the morning American time, giving people an excuse to day drink. This is part of our series discussing exactly what to drink when you’re at the pub, presented by our resident homebrewer, Keith

The Beer: Black Sheep Ale, Black Sheep Brewery, Masham, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

The Pub: The Queen Vic, in northeast DC

What You Need to Know: Black Sheep Brewery was founded in 1992 by Paul Theakston, who is six generations removed from Robert Theakston, the founder of Theakston’s Brewery, best known for its Old Peculier Old Ale. Theakston left the family business in 1988, not long after Matt Brown had taken over the brewery and subsequently sold it to Scottish and Newcastle. He set the new brewery up in what used to be the malting building at the family’s old rival, Lightfoot’s Brewery, and was able to continue brewing in Masham. Consequently, four of Paul’s brothers restored Theakston’s to family control in 2004, and so the family continues its brewing tradition in the Yorkshire Dales.

“Best” bitter is about the midpoint of the “classification system” of bitters that I alluded to earlier in this column’s history. It’s a little darker than ordinary bitter, but not as copper as Extra Special Bitter. It’s also of medium strength, at about 4.2 to 4.7 percent alcohol, and mild hoppiness. It is, to be certain, a “session” style.

So, About this Beer: Pours a slightly hazy orange with a thin white effervescent head. Faint fruit on the aroma. Flavors of straw and minerals fade to a deep hop bitterness. Not so much a snap as a swirl. Mouthfeel is about middleweight, as is the carbonation (which is surprising given the bumpiness of the head).

The Verdict: This was an interesting one.  The label promises heavy fruit flavors, and yet I tasted mostly mineral, likely from the Yorkshire water.  It was a pretty good beer, but I’ve had better Bests.

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