- This brewery-of-the-day has passed.
Today’s Beer of the Day judge is Mark Dredge, beer writer and presenter.
His choice is the classic Theakston ale, Old Peculier. He says:
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Old Peculier available on cask and not ordered it. It’s one of the great British dark ales with its inviting aroma of chocolate, dark malts, cherries, dark fruits and banana. The body is lush and smooth, with a delicious richness of malts that’s so satisfying to drink. It’s an ultimate ale to drink in the pub on a cold evening.
About Theakston Old Peculier
Theakston Old Peculier is possibly one of the country’s most well-known and loved ales. The unique, beautiful brew is often imitated but never matched and is sold literally all over the world. With countless awards to its credit, it is something much admired by ale lovers and is the epitome of the greatest of the British brewing craft.
In the early years of the modern brewing era, about two hundred years ago, many brewers produced a dark, strong ‘stock’ beer in the winter months, to provide a base amount of fermented beer to add to beers brewed in the rather more volatile months of the summer. Old Peculier probably owes its origins to this. In the early years of its inception, the beer would not have been branded by name as such, but like most other beers from most breweries was probably referred to by the number of chalk crosses stamped on the wooden cask containing the beer. For many years even up to within living memory Old Peculier was represented on individual casks by four X’s, XXXX. During late Victorian times, the beer became affectionately referred to, by locals, as Yorkshire’s ‘Lunatic’s Broth’ referencing the unique flavour and strength characteristics of the beer and the possible effect of over-consumption! However it is thought that the nickname did not reflect well on the brewery or the town and so a more respectable name was required.
The town of Masham is most unusual from an ecclesiastical point of view unlike most churches in the country which are attached to the local diocese, Masham was given a particular status, a ‘Court of the Peculier’ as opposed to ‘Court of the Ordinary’. This relates back to medieval times where the ‘living’ of Masham was given to the Cathedral Church of St. Peter in York as repayment for the negotiated release by the Knights Templar from imprisonment in the Middle East during the Crusades, of the owner of the ‘living’ of Masham, Roger de Mowbray. The Archbishop, however was not overjoyed with this arrangement as he was responsible for administrating the law and the journey to Masham involved travelling through thick forests inhabited by cut-throats and vagabonds. His solution was therefore to free Masham from ‘All the customs and claims of his Archdeacons and officials’ and the Peculier Court of Masham was established to administer the law. Peculier is the Norman French word meaning particular rather than odd. The Chairman of the court was known as the Official and had a seal to mark his approval or decision. There is no record of the original seal but the seal in use today was created by King George III in 1747 and is thought to be based on a much earlier original.
So reflecting the unique status of the town of Masham and that of Mr. Theakston’s much admired strong beer, the name of Old Peculier was deemed a much more suitable solution. At first the spelling of Peculier was with an A rather than an E. This was done to politely draw a distinction between the Court and the beer but over time the spelling of Peculier with an E has become the established version
Using the finest of ingredients, Theakston Old Peculier is the alchemy of the famous Theakston twin-strain yeast, pure Yorkshire Dales water, the finest malting barley, top quality English hops and the alignment of the brewing vessels and processes in the Victorian tower brewery, the home of Theakston’s in Masham since its foundation nearly 200 years ago.
The beer has wondrous qualities. The aroma of subtle fruity black cherry and banana overtones develops into a delightful, warming, fruity flavour, with beautifully balanced sweetness tempered with a mixture of bitter hops blended with the majestic Fuggle fruit hop. Brewed at an original gravity of 10.57 degrees, the original mashtun, installed in the ‘new’ brewery in 1875, creates from the mash, the amount of fermentable and un-fermentable sugars to ensure that the correct balance of residual sweetness is retained at the splendid, heart-warming 5.6% ABV.
Whilst very well-known for many years, locally, Theakston Old Peculier’s national and international reputation began in the late 1960s with the re-discovered enthusiasm for traditional cask ale at a time when keg ale was all the rage. At the same time a campaigning group now numbering close to 200K members advocating a return to top fermented cask conditioned beer, the Campaign for Real Ale adopted Theakston’s Old Peculier as an exemplar of how proper beer should be brewed and presented. The popularity of Old Peculier spread like wild fire and is now sold in countries in every continent of the planet (except Antarctica!). Indeed there is an ‘Old Peculier Appreciation Society based in California, some years ago the Canadian Veterans International Rugby Team was called the Old Peculiers. We even have a UK based Hockey club called the Old Peculiers.
Today, Theakston Old Peculier is the title sponsor of the world’s leading Crime Writers Festival attracting the greatest crime writers to a four-day extravaganza staged in close by Harrogate
For nearly 200 years and throughout the ever changing market in which beer trends come and go, Theakston Old Peculier surely is one of the Britain’s greatest brewing treasures and which can demonstrate beyond doubt passing the true test of time.
Full tasting notes : Theakston Old Peculier is a beautiful, yet very simple beer, brewed using a very generous blend of finest pale, crystal and black malt with two bitter hops, Progress and Challenger combined with the majestic and noble ‘Fuggle’ hop to produce a beer of awesome full-bodied flavour with subtle cherry and rich fruit overtones. It tasted superb when accompanied by rich stews, strong cheeses and sweet puddings
See Deep dark ruby
Smell Fruity, mellow, warming
Taste Rich, full – bodied, fruity
Style Premium ale 5.6%
Short description: One of the world’s great beers – smooth, strong and mellow
Descriptor: The beer that made Masham famous – rich, dark and smooth tasting, with a character all of its own. Brewed using the traditional Fuggle hop, Old Peculier is our best known beer and has a large and enthusiastic following all over Britain and around the world