Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Stout and about with a trailblazer

Manchester brewery Joseph Holt's has just launched a new draught nitrokeg stout called Trailblazer in its tied estate.

There seems to be a bit of trend amongst both national and local family brewers to have their own draught stout, with Robinsons, Lees and now Holt's introducing one, as have Marston's and Tadcaster's idiosyncratic dynasty Samuel Smith's, who allegedly did so after a falling out between owner Humphrey Smith and the Guinness rep for the North of England over the price they were being charged for its product (some accounts place their confrontation on a golf course), the resulting Extra Stout being a decent beer which I've sometimes drunk at the end of the night in a couple of their pubs in Stockport and south Manchester after few pints of cask Old Brewery Bitter.

Twenty or thirty years ago, the only draught stout you really saw in either tied pubs or free houses was Guinness, the main exception being others from multinational brewers like Murphy's or Beamish. As a teenager, I drank all of them at one time or another, and occasionally followed a few pints of Holt's cask bitter with a bottle of Guinness Extra Stout shipped in from Dublin, which before the 2005 closure of the Park Royal brewery in west London only supplied the North of England while the latter distributed what was then still a bottle-conditioned beer to pubs in the South and Midlands.

Looking back at beer books from the seventies - such as Frank Baillie's Beer Drinker's Companion and some of the early Good Beer Guides - pretty much all the regional family breweries produced a bottled, usually sweet, stout, something that has disappeared almost entirely in the years since, but happily the boom in microbreweries in the last few decades has seen the appearance of plenty of cask stouts, whose widespread absence from London pubs George Orwell lamented in his seminal essay The Moon Under Water, in different styles including dry, imperial and oatmeal.

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