Beer Review: Theakston Old Peculier

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.

Available in Tesco at the typical price for a bottle of ale: £1.47, you have probably seen it. If not, here is what it looks like…
Bottle of Theakston Old Peculier

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.

Theakston Old Peculier front label

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.

Theakston Old Peculier back label

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.

Pored into a glass the colour is dark. Almost cola like in appearance. The head, I am pleased to say is present. And not too foamy either. A good sign. My pouring must be improving.

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…

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9 Responses to “Beer Review: Theakston Old Peculier”

  1. Sue Massey Says:

    I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    – Sue.

  2. Beer Review: Polish Tyskie Gronie Premium Lager « Bloggy Woggy Says:

    […] of the oldest beers/breweries that I have yet tried. It is also an award winning beer. And unlike some other beers, this time we can see what and when: some five beer competitions over the past few […]

  3. Anonymous Says:

    rich and slightly sweet, smooth and very drinkable.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    My mate claims that he can taste bannana in there… I haven’t tried it yet, would like to though.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Black sheep brewery was set up by one of the Theakston sons of the Theakston brewery who didn’t fit in with the rest and wanted to go it alone (hence the name).

  6. Anonymous Says:

    love that beer, it’s massive up here in oxford

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve been a supporter of the real ale and craft beer revolution since the early 70’s, having been a student in England at the time and was introduced to the world of British beers. This once innocent Canadian soon, and enthusiastically became aware of the richness, variety and outstanding qualities of beverages brewed, marketed, licensed, and exported for well over a thousand years. we, in the New World have still a lot to learn about the local craft, and larger manufacture of the thing we call beer. Through the years, I return time and time again to perhaps my favourite beer in all the world-Theakston’s Old Peculier, but I must emphasize reviews of the bottle will be wholly different from the analysis of the nectar from the pump, an order of magnitude higher, as I have found from most beers. Go to the pub featuring Old Peculier from the pump itself. Now it is true that it is an uncommon thing to find, but if you’re ever at “Ye Olde Starr Inn”,… steps away from the Minster in York, ask for it. After all this time, I can only say of my favourite ale, in an analysis as accurate as the Irish expression is…..”it’s like an angel pissin’ down yer throat!”

  8. David dair Says:

    Just been trying some real ales over the last few months & the old peculier is by far my fav yet.

  9. Sean Pryce Says:

    You should try Old Peculiar from the brewery “Paradise” pub in Masham pulled from an oak cask. It’s nectar. They still have coopers etc and do a great tour with tasting. Great history this old brewery, all brewed in open vats. Once you look for the banana flavour you get it straight away.

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