By Roger Clapham.
So it was another trip to Wales for me the other weekend, and that meant more Welsh beer – never a bad thing in my book. This time I picked up a number of beers from the award-winning Otley Brewing Company, who despite their name are not based in Otley near Leeds, but in fact the very Welsh location of Pontypridd, right by the River Taff – which famously gave the citizens of South Wales (particularly Cardiff) their nickname and goes on to meet the sea in Cardiff Bay.
First things first though – look at those bottles – it’s half the reason I wanted to write this piece. Design is important, and whilst it goes without saying that the beer has to be good (in this case it is) Otley’s approach to labelling and branding, and all the other ad-speak you care to mention, is to be applauded. No naming the beer after some tall story regarding the ghost of a long-gone brewer’s dog or some such horseshit, and no dreadful doodle of a bloody goblin riding a unicorn on the label either. Just a couple of digits combined with the least number of words as possible, and a ruddy great big “O” presented in simple black-and-white. Peter Saville and the late, great Tony Wilson would surely have approved, and many other brewers really should take note.
First up, appropriately enough, is the Otley 01– a bitter in the now ubiquitous pale ale mould. Far more yellow than a standard orange hued bitter, with an almost straw like colour in the glass, the hops used lend it a slight grapefruit sharpness and a distinct dryness. It does what you would expect a decent ale to these days in that it’s dry, refreshing, bittersweet and comes in at an unthreatening 4.0%. A reliably classy number.
The other Otley beer I really enjoyed was the 06 Porter. It’s 6.6%, but you wouldn’t know it as the taste belies no big alcoholic punch, a sure sign of some skilled brewing. There is a big coffee hit as you might expect, but it’s smoother than a Luther Vandross record with very little bitterness, and what dryness is there is only subtle. It might not be the right choice for an afternoon in a sunny beer garden, but it certainly is an easy drinking beauty.
You’ll get Otley beers in Wales of course, and good pubs in London, Bristol, and a few other Western areas. And should you come across their Thai-Bo anywhere then treat yourself to a pint of it straight away – it’s great, a really unusual golden ale brewed with lemongrass and the help of beer writer Melissa Cole. Highly recommended.