Tag Archive: Black Sheep Brewery


Black Sheep: Riggwelter (England: English Strong Ale: 5.7% ABV)

Visual: Light chestnut brown coloured body with reddened hues. Middling sized brown froth head. Still.

Nose: Milky chocolate. Cocoa dust. Lightly earthy. Crushed peanuts. Light caramel. Raisins.

Body: Liquorice. Lightly earthy. Cake sponge. Milk texture. Light ginger bread. Light prickling. Greenery. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Light charring.

Finish: Gingerbread. Earthy bitterness. Greenery. Nutty. Bitter chocolate dust. Light milk. Bitter coffee remains. Peppery. Dry treacle.

Conclusion:This shows how earthy hop flavours, and even liquorice notes, both of which are so often a weakness in badly made beers, can be used in satisfying and robust ways.

I think a lot of it comes from the balance of the weight of the beer to its drinkability. This is weighty with a slight milky, creamy grip and thickness at the core but around that is a dry general bitter like feel. The slight dryness is what makes it easy to drink, the thickness adds enough to make the earthier bitter notes more manageable and less wearing that they can be in lighter beers.

There is a gingerbread and peppery spice throughout it – a savoury tingling set of flavours that complement the solid earthy bitterness well without contradicting them too much. It is a very traditional set of bitter notes but behind that the extra malt weight gives hints of dark fruit, raisins, and even manages to make that hint of liquorice feel like a welcome release rather than an off note. It makes for very much the heavier take on the traditional earthy British bitter.

If that earthy bitterness, even a strong ale take on such, does not appeal to you then this will probably not be one you find to your tastes. If, however it does not put you off then you may find, like I do, that this stands on the ideal point between a weightier ale, and a drinkable bitter. Old school but done right.

Background: When the parents came down to visit, as well as the beer from Christmas I mentioned in some previous notes, they also brought a box of Black Sheep beers for me. Many thanks again! Black Sheep are good brewery up north, named after the creator who was the black sheep that left the Theakston brewery to set up his own. Which makes sense. Anyway, this is one I had many times back in the old days, but had not revisited recently, so was looking forwards to trying it again. Went with Jack Off Jill again as backing music, Sexless Demons and Scars this time.

black-sheep-ale

Black Sheep: Black Sheep Ale (England: Bitter: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed brown. Clear. Still. Small grey head.

Nose: Earthy. Caramel sweetness. Palma violets. Sulphur.

Body: Slight fizzy feel. Nettles. Earthy notes and palma violets. Lightly sour. Light chalk. Soft vanilla back. Light cherries. Sticky brown envelopes

Finish: Dry roasted peanuts and chestnuts. Earthy notes. Light bitterness. Palma violets. Sticky brown envelopes. Turmeric.

Conclusion: You know, earthy bitters catch some shit. They get overlooked so much. I can see why – they aren’t bursting with tropical fruit. They don’t have huge malt sweetness to sooth. They are work-a-day beers. Not to mention they are, by definition, earthy. That is a hard sell. No one likes the idea of drinking earth, right?

The thing is, while it isn’t going to set the world alight, when done right a bitter has a slight sourness, very mild but just there, that makes it refreshing. It is why they are so good as a work-a-day pint.

This is one of those beers that does it right. It is earthy, with that slight sour refreshing note – and in a unique element for this one, matches that with a kind of palma violet cleanness to the whole thing – if that makes sense. Also, if it doesn’t make sense. It makes the earthiness feel less wearing over time, which solves what is oft a flaw of those type of bitters.

Now, it is pretty one note, a one trick pony; It never changes from that beer it is at the start, but it balances itself well – even using a slight vanilla sweetness and slight chalk grounding to polish the edges. I’m not going to rave about it as a beer – I’ve yet to run into a solidly earthy bitter that can make me rave about it. That may be your breweries challenge for 2017 if you are reading this and want to take a run at it. This does do the job though.

Not fancy, but hopefully from my meandering writing of the past few paragraphs I have shown why I’m glad beers like this exists, even if they are an oft overlooked style.

Background: Second in my “Sheep” themed tasting notes. An intentional theme. Honest. Anyway, this s part of a Christmas gift from a workmate. Many thanks! Drunk while listening to the latest Spektrmodule podcast. Black Sheep brewery is actually close to where I used to live once up North. Never visited it though. Possibly should do that one day. I am minorly biased towards the North for beers, cos I love the North, but try not to let it affect me.

EDIT: I accidentally reviewed this one twice – fairly similar notes, but with a few differences – check out the other set of note here if you care to.

Black Sheep Ale

Black Sheep: Ale (England: Bitter: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Chestnut brown. High level of carbonation in the clear body. Large, loose, off white bubbled head.

Nose: Crisp. Nutty. Dry roasted peanuts dusting.

Body: Slick hop oils and bitterness. Nutty – chestnuts. Light orange notes. Soft vanilla. Light nettles. Earthy.

Finish: Nutty. Earthy. Bitter. Turmeric. Light spice – paprika. Hop oils. Light vanilla. Light lime notes.

Conclusion: Been a while since I first had a beer from the Black Sheep brewery. Growing up a lot in Yorkshire they were one of the earliest ales I tried. Returning to it, I initially found that it did not really live up to memories. Which may have been expected. It definitely showcases the influence of the more earthy, and slightly spicy British hops. Initially it feels quite simple, with a lot of influence of slick hop oils and an accompanying rustic bitterness.

However, shortly after,about a third of the way into the glass, some soft orange and vanilla notes grew out of the malt, mixing with the spice character and making a more welcome and complex ale. It is still a bit too heavy on the earthy character, the finish is long lasting but the one note emphasis can get wearing.

It is very much calling to the more traditional earthy ales, and not bad at that, but, for me, it holds onto that one style too heavily. If it was just slightly more lightly done, I feel the more subtle notes underneath would have blended better for a much superior ale.

Still, not an unpleasant ale, and impresses more as the beer goes on, finally the more subtle notes get more of a showing near the end, mixing better as the more earthy notes withdraw.

Overall, not up to my memory of it, and a bit too earthy as you may have guessed, but solid characteristics does redeem it somewhat, especially near the end.

Background: Is that time of the year, back with the family and raiding their kindly provided beer selection. So it is time for a few of the more traditional British ales. In this case a beer from the Yorkshire Black Sheep brewery. I may be biased towards Yorkshire things. I also hold Game Of Thrones is a documentary about how honest upstanding northerners get screwed by evil untrustworthy southerners. So, yeah, bias warning. Drunk after watching the Christmas Doctor Who. The most important part of the day.

EDIT: I accidentally reviewed this one twice – fairly similar notes, but with a few differences – check out the other set of note here if you care to.

Black Sheep: Imperial Russian Stout  (England: Imperial Stout: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: A very dark mahogany red that seems black unless held to the light. A loose beige bubbled head.

Nose:  Liquorice. Sour black cherry. Malt. Slightly musty. Grain and wholemeal.

Body:  Heaps of those little black liquorice bits.  Sour sweet chews. Roasted nuts. Slight malted drink. Sour cream.  Smooth textured through all of this.

Finish: Liquorice again. Malt chocolate. Pistachios. Dry malt. More sour cream.

Conclusion:  Bloody hell, did they just drop huge liquorice chunks into this or something!  If that statement doesn’t give it away let me put it more plainly.  There is a heck of a lot of liquorice flavours in this beer. Probably too much I would say.

That and slight fruit sourness makes it different from a lot of imperial stouts, though not in a way that overly appeals to me.

Its other distinctive element is that it calls massively to the Baltic porter style, with that almost sour cream taste to it.  It’s a style that can work, but the abv seems to push the cloying nature way to the front and makes it not quite work as well as it does in those porters.

Now a lot of this comes down to personal taste, as it is put together impressively, just not in a way that appeals to me.  For example, the way the flavour clings gives an impression of a much thicker beer than it actually is. Very clever, very well done, but again this emphasises the elements that re not to my particular tastes.

That said it’s not a bad beer and I didn’t begrudge drinking it, but it was put together for someone who drank a Baltika 6 and thought, this needs to be an Imperial Stout! So not me then.
Ah well.

Background: Picked up at the bottle shop in York. This is a limited release beer, and since Black Sheep brewery have been pretty solid so far I thought it was worth a shot. The Black Sheep brewery is from Ripon, which is in North Yorkshire. Which means it is automatically sodding awesome. No I am not biased. Why do you ask? I have had a lot of Imperial Stouts in the cupboard recently, I may be in danger of becoming blasé.

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