In partnership with Timothy Taylor
Tuesday 11 February 2020
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While the whale-chasing world sips imperial milkshake goses on Instagram Live, your favourite brewers are probably drinking a pint of Landlord in their local. Sparkled, if they’ve got any sense. Check their profiles and you’re more likely than ever to see their branded glasses filled with copper, pin-bright beer; the acceptable face of trad brewing in a relentlessly trend-obsessed scene.
“It’s funny that Landlord has become a beer people drink as sessionable,” says head brewer Andy Leman, when I ask him about their most well-known beer gaining something of a cult status among brewers and drinkers alike. “It was always regarded as a strong pale ale. We would never have considered it a session beer.”
There’s a quiet industriousness about Timothy Taylor’s. Its beers are well loved by thousands, but there’s no leaning about on the job. In 2020 it’s got a brand new beer and a rebrand to get busy with, on top of maintaining the expected high-quality of beers like Golden Best and Landlord. Care, as well as experience, is what makes these beers the bar staples that they are, and that takes effort.
Bringing the Storm
“This year we’re launching Hopical Storm, our first ever commercial kegged beer,” says Andy. “We trialled it at a few festivals last year, on cask, and we’ve found the flavours work very well with carbonation. It gives the hop aromas a bit of a lift.”
“We class it as a session IPA; East coast in style, fruity, and modern. At 4% ABV it’s going to be something you can drink more than one pint of, and of course we wanted to make sure it was balanced. While it has a lot of tropical hop flavours and aromas, we didn’t want to alienate people who love our traditional, classic beers with challenging flavours and bitterness.”
You could easily say then, that Hopical Storm is Timothy Taylor’s way of acknowledging that the hop-forward, carbonated trends of today’s beer industry aren’t going anywhere, while keeping true to the styles they enjoy. A brave step, being that the Campaign for Real Ale — while accepting KeyKeg beers at some of its festivals — is still steadfastly opposed to carbonated, kegged beers. The beer world is changing, and Timothy Taylor’s sees keg, and hop-forward styles, as progress. Perhaps this is a larger point than the sum of its parts.
In making Hopical Storm, the brewing team at Timothy Taylor’s sampled no fewer than 16 hop varieties over the course of many painstaking months. Andy explains the process:
“We brewed a beer with a light base and then dry hopped it while it was in barrels, the traditional way. It was extraordinary the different flavours and aromas every different hop gave to the beer.”
In the end, Hopical Storm was created with four specially chosen hops, each picked because of the unique characteristics they brought to the Vienna, Cara and Munich malt brew. Jester was selected for its mango and passion fruit flavours, Cascade for its famous grapefruit flavour, Chinook for pineapple and Ernest for apricot and citrus notes, but also for its spicy, classic characteristics. Also, as a pleasing addition to what many class as one of Britain’s best heritage breweries, every hop used in the new beer is UK grown.
“We wanted to make a modern style dry-hopped pale ale that’s sessionable as well as delicious. It will be perfect in the summer, but this is not a seasonal beer. It’ll be available all year round, served at eight degrees celsius.”
Dark, delicious times
Amid talk of modern styles and keg dispense, the future of Timothy Taylor’s is as much invested in traditional styles as it has ever been. However, even traditional, old-school Timothy Taylor's beers are changing to reflect the modern-day drinker. The rebranding of dark ale “Ram Tam” to “Landlord Dark” has already been hotly debated among devotees, and Andrew is ready for the discussion. He believes the name change was needed, and makes a lot more sense.
“The truth is, nobody really knows where the name “Ram Tam” came from. Originally, the same beer was made under the name “Old Ale” — some locals to West Yorkshire still call it “Old Beer” in fact. People started calling it “Ram Tam” in about the 1950s, and like I say, nobody knows why!”
If it seems strange that a traditional brewery might want to change something characteristically traditional like a unique beer name, you might not be thinking about the wider picture.
“'Ram Tam' is a lovely local name, but unfortunately further afield it means nothing,” says Andy. “However, the name 'Landlord' means a lot to people. And the beer is actually a dark version of Landlord: Landlord is its base beer. So, in fact, the name 'Landlord Dark' just makes a lot of sense. People all over the country will recognise the beer and understand what to expect.”
As the saying goes, and as Andy points out: “It does what it says on the tin.”
Inevitably, the conversation turns to the other dark beers made by Timothy Taylor’s, and what the future has in store for them. I confess my love for their Dark Mild, and Andy tells me it starts life as Golden Best, another of my favourites.
“It’s traditional to have two types of mild in the Pennines, a light and a dark,” he explains. “Traditionally Mild was always stronger in the past, so the style doesn’t necessarily mean low strength, which can confuse some people. It’s about how the beer has a milder flavour as compared to bitter.”
This sounds funny to me, being that nowadays people tend to choose something like a Landlord as a “milder” choice to any American or modern-style IPAs on offer. I tell Andy that, and thankfully, he laughs and agrees. I ask him what he thinks of the constant vocal demand for darker beers and dark milds, and whether he sees Landlord Dark, not a mild but an old ale, filling this demand.
“The thing is,” he says, “People say they want dark beers, but when it comes to it, they don’t drink much of them. It’s great to have the choice but people tend to have one and then move back to their usual bitters or pale ales.”
“We do believe there is more interest in dark beers than there has been in the past 20-30 years though, and we hope Landlord Dark and our Dark Mild can be beers that people who are finding they enjoy a dark beer now will choose.”
It’s comforting, in a way, to hear that a brewery that’s been making well-loved beers for over 160 years isn’t above moving with the times. Bringing new drinkers in and encouraging people to enjoy beers outside of their comfort zone is how the scene keeps afloat. Maintaining age-old traditions and high quality is how a brewery maintains a sterling reputation for over a hundred years. If Timothy Taylor’s can lead the way in doing both simultaneously and show the beer industry how both worlds can live together in harmony, so much the better.
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