Nestled within the lush green countryside of North Yorkshire, England, lies a pretty little market town and parish, home to a mere 1,235 people. Situated in Wensleydale on the western bank of the River Ure is the hidden gem of real ale production. The quintessential epicentre for locally produced fare, fine cask ales and cheery English wholesomeness. I’m talking about, what is to me, the centre of the universe. Masham!
Now I could quite happily waffle on for pages telling you all about everything Masham (pronounced Mass-am) has to offer, but this is a blog about craft beer, and in my opinion that subject is where Masham comes into its own. The simple reason for this is, Masham has not one, but two unbelievable brewerys. I KNOW!!!!
Situated a mere 0.8miles apart in the centre of picturesque little Masham are Theakstons brewery and The Black sheep brewery. If that wasn’t amazing enough. Scattered inbetween them both are no less than four real ale pubs. All boasting cosy open fires, traditional English pub decor, rooms to let, and all serving delicious, fresh locally produced food made to order. Oh, and of course a delightful array of superb cask ales. This place really is a real ale lovers paradise.
Let me tell you about Theakstons.
The picture above is of The Black Bull In Paradise, which is the tasting room and gift shop of the brewery.
The Brewery is the sixteenth largest brewer in the Uk by market share and the second biggest brewer under family ownership, behind Shepard Neame.
Theakstons brewery was established by Robert Theakston and John Wood in the Black bull pub and brewhouse, Masham in 1827. By 1832 Robert Theakston had full ownership of the brewery and in 1875 handed it over to his son Thomas, who expanded the business, building a new brewhouse on the Paradise Fields. Which kind of answers the question on why the tap room is named, The Black bull in Paradise.
Since then, the brewery has established itself as one of the major players in the Uk brewing industry. Producing classic ales such as Old Perculiar.
Which is a thick, strong dark ale. With rich roasted malt flavours and subtle notes of liqorice and chocolate. On the other end of the spectrum they produce a delicious light ale called Lightfoot, which is delicious and zesty with citrus bursting in your mouth.
Along with common staples such as; mild, best bitter, XB, and Old Perculiar, they also offer a range of seasonal brews,including my favourite, Grouse beater.
Named after the beaters who trawl the coutryside, banging sticks in order to scare the grouse to fly away, giving the hunters something to shoot at. Its a delicious malty beer,with bags of orange citrus, and definatly one I Iook forward to each year.
The strange thing about the two brewerys in masham is they are most definitely connected to one another. This is because in 1988 Paul Theakston left his position with Theaskstons following disagreements with his family and other shareholders running the company. In 1989 Paul Theakston bought the North Yorkshire Malt Roasting Company from an animal feed company in order to start a new brewery. The Black Sheep Brewery was born.
Paul, using the towns association with sheep came up with the name ‘Sheep Brewery’. This quickly changed to ‘The Blacksheep Brewery’ which was chosen at his wifes request. I presume on account of the Theakston family dissagreements, meaning Paul became the ‘black-sheep’. The brewery produces a range of well hopped beers and was an almost instant success. The brewery now producing over 75,000 barrels a year. The Blacksheep brewery produce two of my most favourite beers. Blacksheep ale, a classic amber ale with rich malty flavours balanced perfectly with hops giving just the right amount of bitterness. The second being ‘Golden Sheep’
A delicious golden ale packed full of rich fruity hops. Other beers in thier range include; Best bitter, and Rigwelter. This is a strong dark ale that is super rich in roasted malt flavour and high bittering hops. The name given for when a sheep ends up on its back and is unable to get itself back on its feet. It then being branded ‘rigwelted’. Perfect for sipping infront of a roaring open fire on a cold winters night.
Recently they produced a one off beer to celebrate the start of the tour de france bike race which began in Yorkshire this year. The beer was named ‘velo’, and was a delicious smooth blonde ale pack full of juicy cascade hops. I was lucky enough to sample it on my last visit there and it was extremely good.
The brewery also has a fabulous visitors centre, offering tours, a bistro offering superb English cuisine, and it is also available for weddings and various other functions. Not forgetting the ‘sheepy shop’ for all your branded merchendise.
So if your looking for a fabulous place to visit with amazing real ale and food then look no further than this gem of a place. Pay Masham a visit. You wont regret it.