Monday, December 12, 2005

December 2005 - Samuel Smith Brewery

The December Mmephis Beer Club focused on 5 different beers brewed by the Samuel Smith Brewery in Tadcaster, Workshire England. The Old Brewery at Tadcaster was founded in 1758 and is Yorkshire’s oldest brewery. Samuel Smith is one of the few remaining independent breweries in England, and further is the last to utilize the classic Yorkshire Square system of fermentation solely in stone squares. The rich Samuel Smith strain of yeast at The Old Brewery dates from the early 1900s. Hops are hand-weighed by the master hop blender, and the brewing water is drawn from a well sunk over 200 years ago. The most important information about the Samuel Smith Beers is that they all are vegan, just like me!

This was the first time that we dedicated an entire tasting to one brewery and I'm sure we will do it again. We started off with the lightest and moved to the darkest beer in the tasting. Each of the beers had there own unique deep flavors, but the all were similar in smoothness and finish.

The first beer of the night was a Premium Lager, Pure Brewed Lager. The all-malt beer is brewed with softer water and fermented in separately-housed stainless steel lager vessels using bottom-fermenting yeast. This had a lot more flavor than the other premium lager we have tasted (Harp, Kronenbourg 1664, Stella Artois) laced with some fruity hops. Samuel Smith senior (died 1880) was born in Yorkshire, and was originally a tanner. In 1847, this Samuel bought a brewing business in Tadcaster from the Hartley family. That brewery, founded in 1758, is said to be the oldest in Yorkshire.

Samuel's sons, John Smith and his brother William, took over the brewery in 1852. Another brother, Samuel Smith, inherited the business on William's death in 1886, and re-opened the brewery under his own name. He then ran it in competition of another brewery in the same town which still bore the name of his brother John. Samuel Smith's is the only one of the Tadcaster breweries which has remained an independent family firm.

The next beer was the Old Brewery Pale Ale, when this beer was first produced beers were darker. With the introduction of inexpensive clear drinking vessels, translucent beers became fashionable. When this sparkling amber beer was produced, it was declared pale to differentiate it from porter. This beer is actual classifiedd as a Premium Bitter/ESB, which normally has a rating between 25 and 35. I was not very impressed with this beer due to the lack of that hoppiness found in other pale ale like Sierra Nevada and Boulevard Pale Ale. These are two of my favorite beers.

In keeping with this rich sense of history and tradition, the brewery keeps a small team of dapple-grey Shire Horses. Far from being simply show horses, these gentle giants are among the last active dray horses in the world. They deliver beer to customers within a seven-mile radius of the brewery, as they and their ancestors have done for more than a hundred years.

We followed the Pale Ale with the Nut Brown Ale, which is often called a 'Mild' if it is on draft; brown ale is a walnut-colored specialty of the North of England. A festive-occasion beer, brown ale is one of the oldest English brewing styles, mentioned in literature in the 16th century. Beers brewed at the old brewery have a round, nutty flavor because of the Yorkshire square system of fermentation Once again this was a beer that was a pleasant surprise after the Pale Ale. It has a walnut-like color and palate of hazelnuts. Wonderful balance of roasted crystal malt and aromatic hops. I will make sure to have this beer again soon.

According to Michael Jackson, the beer guru not the freak, Taddy Porter is "One of the world’s five best beers!" I would have to agree that this is for sure one of my top five beers of all time. Porter was the first commercially brewed beer. It was named for the train porters who were its original servers and consumers. Samuel Smith's Old Brewery, Yorkshire's oldest, reintroduced authentic porter to the British beer scene in 1979 after an absence of more than 50 years. The beer that is export to the United States as a Porter is marketed as a Stout in the United Kingdom. I think most people believe that Stout are stronger and 'Darker" than Porters, but this has to be one of the most robust tasting beers in the world.

The brewery also operates a number of pubs, which are notable for stocking almost exclusively generically branded or Samuel Smith branded drinks, including all beers, ciders, and spirits. These pubs are often referred to as man-in-box pubs due to their beers' distinctive tap handles. They are also noted for their unusually cheap prices; Samuel Smith claims it usually increases prices only by inflation each year.

We finished off the tasting with Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, which is classified as a Sweet Stout. Once again, like the Young’s Chocolate Stout, the group was pleasantly surprised about how smooth and rich this beer tasted. Originally a drink for lactating mothers, oatmeal stout was described as nutritional on early labels. Oats are in the same family as barley, and a small addition yields great flavor. Popular in the late 1800’s, the last oatmeal stout was brewed before the First World War until Samuel Smith reintroduced this style in 1980. Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout is ranked third in the world by beer drinker on This website has been a great resource in learning about different styles and beers for each beer club.

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