WHY is it so difficult to find good ale? Recently, it’s as if every other drink I try is a variation on the boring bitter theme. Bitters are drank by dull Northerners and pensioners. Regular readers will know that what I’m looking for in ale, is a full, strong, complex flavour and something different. Something that separates it from others. Something that makes it unique.
It was with some trepidation, that I returned to another ale, also originating from Masham, North Yorkshire. At this point, I must admit, I was under the impression that Old Peculiar, and Black Sheep were from the same brewery. Who wouldn’t? They are both from Masham. And they both have a head brewer named Theakston. But, investigation of their respective websites proves otherwise. If you know what the story is, please leave a comment.
The bottle shape and colour are unremarkable. What does stand out is the label. They have cleverly made the background of both the front and rear labels the same dark colour as the bottle. This gives the text and ‘seal’ logo excellent contrast and an unusual look. That is a good start. According to their website, the ‘peculier’ ‘seal’ was granted by King George the Third and the back story involves the Crusades and Saladin. Now that is the sort of story I like a brewery to have.
Something else that stands out is the 5.6% volume. Experience to date, tells me that the stronger ales are usually the best. It is also a 500ml bottle, so have a pint glass to hand.
The rear label also has two of the things I most like to have included on a bottle label: history of the brewery and a description of the drink in question. Under the headline ‘Under Old Management’, we learn about the 180 year history of brewing. And of becoming independent and family owned again after twenty years. We also learn that this is award winning ale. Yet again however, we don’t know what, when, or by whom. If you happen to know, leave a comment at the end of this post.
Before we move on to what this brew actually tastes of, what does the label promise? We are promised a “Full-bodied, rich, smooth tasting ale with a mysterious and distinctive flavour”. No, I didn’t know what to expect from that description either. I’m going to guess that it means a full and interesting flavour that isn’t very bitter and see how it does.
The smell is of wheat and barley. And in the right proportions without being overpowering. To me, this is how traditional ale should smell.
At this point, I was still afraid it would be yet another bitter-like ale. And the taste does have a hint of bitter about it. But, fortunately, what you taste most of all is the wheat and the barley. Or is it? A few more gulps through, it you realise that it is more complex than that. Sure, the wheat and barley dominate, but you get the sense that there is more, if only you were skilful enough to discern what it is. Like you can taste lots of flavours at once, but can’t put your finger on what they are.
Old Peculier is also not too gassy. It is also very drinkable, leaving you relishing each gulp in the attempt to figure out what it is, you can taste. This drink is turning out to be very good indeed. I ended up finishing this bottle all too quickly and could easily have enjoyed another one or two.
Did the drink match the label description? As per the label, it was “full-bodied”, “rich” and “smooth”. I’m less certain how “mysterious” and “distinctive” it is. While it is different to other strong ales, it isn’t massively so. That said, this is excellent stuff. I’d happily buy more, will keep a look out on supermarket shelves for others in the range.
Rating: 4.25 give or take a few points
Have you tried Old Peculier? If so, what did you think? Leave a comment let everyone know.
I’m thinking of trying something that isn’t a rustic old ale next. Any ideas or suggestions what it should be? You know where to leave your comment…