I actually need to give myself a slap on the wrist, because even though I have lived in York for almost 4 years, I have only just got around to investigating all the beer made right here in the city! Therefore Ijumped at the opportunity to take a guided tour of York Brewery.
The brewery is situated just inside the city walls and along with a 20 barrel brew plant, it also has a Brewery Tap Room! This was a bit of a revelation to me, as I had always assumed the brewery was just a big industrial unit, but no! After taking the tour you can sample a selection of their beers on tap (the tour price even includes a pint of real ale.)
Before the tour begins, everyone waits in the cosy attic tap room, which is a real hidden gem with it's old school northern feel. This means you can get stuck in with trying a few samples. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming, I can even hear a very lively discussion about beer happening on the very next table, a sign that this is a place which attracts real enthusiasts. There is even a brewery shop should you wish to take home in a larger quantity anything that you have enjoyed!
The building is actually 300 years old, so there's a fair bit of history here. However, it hasn't always been a brewery. I was reliably told that in its time it had been both a morgue and a brothel (not at the same time, that would be just a little bit awkward!)
I don't really want to give too much away about the tour because as a novice beer drinker, I wouldn't be able to do it justice! We were lead by an extremely knowledgeable staff member who talked us through the whole brewing process. There were many facts about beer that I was previously unaware of, such as the fact that the brewing process requires hard water. Gypsum and salts are added to create the perfect levels and the result is beer with a better body and mouth feel!
I also learnt that you don't have to make beer just out of wheat, you can use anything that basically contains natural sugar! This can be oats, rye, rice or even pumpkins! (Pumpkin beer sounds amazing actually.)
So much barley is needed! The barley is the only source of sugar in the beer and is made into malt by soaking in warm water then dried.
The big plastic tub is full of hops, a vital component in the beer making process. They are also full of antioxidants, which means that beer is indeed good for you!
In the middle are hand pumps, which were actually invented in 1792 and haven't changed since!
A useful inforgraphic about the beer making process.
Not only do you get to see the raw ingredients, you also get to walk above all the mash tuns and other vessels! The aroma is amazing, the air is laden with the smell of the malt, creating the sense you are literally walking in a mug of ovaltine.
The mash Tun is huge! The brewery has a capacity of 40 - 50,000 pints a week.
After the fascinating tour, it was time for the tasting, arguably one of the highlights! In order to get a good overview, I tried three of York Brewery's most popular pints.
First up was the York IPA, which was wonderfully light, with a spicy tang and smooth finish.
I normally prefer dark beers, so the extremely knowledgeable staff recommended that I try the Centurion's Ghost Ale. This was slightly sweeter, but is sill extremely smooth and mellow. It was actually my personal favourite, among with the majority of the staff!
Finally, after such a dark beer, I opted for something a bit lighter and tried the Guzzler.
At 3.6% this is bar far the best option for a long night and is wonderfully crisp light and refreshing.
An interior wall of the tap room displaying all of the beers of 2013.
I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the brewery; the tour is £6 for adults, with discounts for students and senior citizens available. It’s a fascinating way to spend a couple of hours and you are also supporting a wonderful local business.
The brewery is also hosting abeer festival from the 7-11th November, which is right now people!
Entry to the beer festival is free, so no excuses for missing out!
The festival runs Thursday – Saturday, 12pm – 11pm and Sunday 12pm – 8pm. See the website for details:
York Brewery, 12 Toft Green, York. YO1 6JT (On the corner of Salvation turn left up Tanner Row and carry on to Toft Green).
*The brewery kindly allowed me to take the tour and sample the beers free of charge, an opportunity I am extremely grateful for, as it means I can tell you guys all about it! I continue to only recommend places, services and products which I feel are good quality and provide great value for money.