By Ben McCormick
A visit to Yorkshire, or the wrong side of the Pennines as I usually refer to it, presented the perfect opportunity to have a cheap dig at the inhabitants of England’s largest, most notorious county. And York Brewery’s Yorkshire Terrier beer, on sale at a typically brash outlet called Fodder, provides the ammunition. The bottle has a picture of a faux-cute Yorkie on it; its head coyly cocked to one side, pretending to be friendly while secretly sizing up your wallet.
York Brewery started out making beer at Toft Green in 1996 and is the first brewery within the city walls for nearly 40 years. Its equipment came from Original Lions Brewery on the right side of the Pennines in Blackburn, doubtless in an effort to import some quality and class.
Not satisfied with nicking our fine Lancastrian machinery, York Brewery then came flat cap-in-hand to pub operator Mitchell’s of Lancaster, signing a deal to safeguard its future. Told you it was after your money.
I eye the poured beer with the kind of suspicion I’d usually save for White Rose County folk themselves. It looks like lager. But thankfully, the similarity ends there. First taste impressions are of a fairly sharp, sprightly and fruity premium bitter. Then, spank, the hops yap at your tongue like a demented dog. And like the tenacious canine that gave the ale its name, persistence is one of its main characteristics. Yorkshire Terrier clamps its lockjaw flavour down upon you like a grappling iron. Impossible to remove without grabbing desperately at its tail. Is it a pleasant sensation? Difficult to say. It’s as if you’ve been cornered at a party by the girl no one really fancied at school and had a snog planted firmly on your lips. The stigma’s still there, but secretly you’re really enjoying it.
The lengthy finish is clean as a whistle too. And brusquely insistent. I’m afraid it’s ticking far too many Yorkshire cliché boxes as it fills up the doorway, blithely asserting its own righteousness with a grin you’d happily erase with the wrong side of a board duster were you given to violence. It isn’t complex, but then it doesn’t need to be. It’s a premium bitter and there’s enough venom in its tail to keep a slew of life-weary cynics satisfied.
Stepping back from the stereotype for a moment, Yorkshire Terrier is a fantastically crafted beer. Its lightness and vivacity bely the robust 4.2% alcohol content and the insistent, yappy finish sits up and begs you to drink more. It’s War of the Roses rivalry in a bottle: outwardly belligerent and brimming with grudging but genuine admiration.