On a dreary Friday morning I met my dad (Ian) on Platform One at Harrogate station to get the train over to York. There was to be no driving today because we were celebrating the Yorkshire microbrewery with Brewtown Tours!
When we arrived at York we had enough time to grab a bacon butty and a Filmore and Union sandwich as food isn’t included in the tour. Host and beer fanatic Mark met us at The York Tap which is located within York Railway station, at 11.15am. From there we set off for our first brewery, traveling in the Brew-mobile.
Brewtown Tours offers a variety of tours which encompass many different breweries in the York, Harrogate & Leeds area. The tours start from £70 per person. For more information visit https://www.brewtowntours.co.uk/tours/
During the journey, Mark introduced us to the tour and asked us three questions, name, earliest memory of beer and what do you like to drink.
Being the avid gin drinker that I am, beer has never been my tipple of choice. However, I was open to be educated. Now, I do remember my first experience of beer. It was when I was about seven or eight. Dad had me well trained. When the Grand Prix was on the telly I used to head into the kitchen, grab a Timothy Taylor from the fridge, and try to open it with the bottle opener. After a little help from mum I used to pour the beer, slightly tipping the glass so as not to get a giant head on it, and, before handing it to dad, I used to take a sip and try to achieve the beer moustache!
There were just four of us on this tour, David, Mel, Dad and me. However, it can accommodate up to eight people. After we’d all shared our memories and beer preferences it was time for our first Brewery.
Named after the old Roman road of ‘Rudgate’ which runs straight past their brewery, Rudgate has been brewing for 25 years and is owned by Craig. It was the biggest of the three breweries we visited and it was incredible to see how much they had achieved. The talk was given by Head Brewer, Dan. He has worked for the company for eight years and had proudly worked his way up to Head Brewer just 18 months ago. At each stop you try three thirds.
Dan talked us through the process and we were even able to climb a ladder to look into the fermentation barrels. Dan also showed us the yeast which is specific to them. The Brewery cultivates their own yeast, so even if they were to give the recipe to someone else they wouldn’t be able to create the same taste without the special yeast. Dan said it’s one of the most important ingredients.
Rudgate Brewery won my “Most Surprisingly Tasty Beer” Award. Their Chocolate Stout was delicious; hazelnut in colour with caramel and chocolate undertones.
Dad also enjoyed his favourite beer here; the Ruby Mild. Mahogany in colour and traditional in taste.
Soon it was on to the next stop on our tour.
Yorkshire Heart Vineyard and Brewery
This was the most rustic and cute brewery of them all. Family member, Tim, decided to start the brewery after the vineyard experienced a particularly harsh season. They were looking to create a product that wasn’t so reliant on the Yorkshire weather. Yes, the grapes for the wine are actually grown in Yorkshire! Tim looked like a brewer; strong and stocky! He showed us the best tools of the trade – his prized pitch fork! He also educated us on the different malt and barley used to create his beer recipes. When we tried some I was surprised at the difference in flavours which resulted just from the roasting process – much like coffee, I guess.
The Yorkshire Heart won my “Best Beer of the Day” award. It had a beautiful Rhu-bar beer. The beer was created because Tim was helping out at the annual Rhubarb festival. For those not from Yorkshire, we have what’s called the Rhubarb Triangle, famous for forced rhubarb. Many moons ago this small triangle produced 90% of the world’s winter forced rhubarb; so it felt right to have a rhubarb beer as part of Yorkshire Heart’s collection.
Dad enjoyed his “Most Surprisingly Tasty Beer” here when Tim opened his ‘Let’s Get Pithed’ orange beer – I applaud the name! Dad loved it and said it should be on a pairing menu. Beers are now appearing more and more often on pairing menus.
In between breweries, we made a stop off at Ainsty Farm Shop on the A59. If you hadn’t brought your pack-up then the shop provides freshly made sandwiches and pork pies (which Dad enjoyed).
Ainsty Ales was our final stop. We arrived at some rustic sheds in Copmanthorpe and upon entering I was surprised to see a welcoming log fire and a bar!
Owned by ex-police officer and marketer Andy, Ainsty Ales takes inspiration from the medieval self-governing area of “York & Ainsty District Wapentake”. The Brewery, which is also a popular local drinking spot, had such a lovely feel and in the time we spent there the bar was full. Andy opens it up to the public on Friday evenings and I urge you to pop in for a pint (he also serves gin and wine for those that don’t drink beer).
We enjoyed an Ainsty Angel to start. This was a refreshing pale ale and a contrast to the darker ales we had consumed previously. Andy showed us round his brewery and it was an impressive setup, everything was organised and had its place.
Ainsty Ales won my “Favourite Brewery” award. I loved the back story of the ale and how Andy is forever pushing the boundaries. For example, he has invited York St John University into the brewery. The students help him to improve, and their time in the brewery forms part of their curriculum. It felt like the new age of breweries!
Having reached my limit in ales, I bought Dad an Ainsty Assassin and myself a Crafty Chocolatier to take home and enjoy.
I learnt so much about beer on this tour which I’ve not even touched on in this post. That’s because I want you to go visit these amazing breweries for yourself. It’s so worth it and I was blown away by the people behind each of the three brands – all amazing and all so different.
A big thank you to Mark who is so passionate about beer but also about showcasing the wonderful Breweries we have in Yorkshire. He works so hard to get, sometimes exclusive, access for the tour. It’s the ideal gift for the dads this Christmas. Dad even said he’s go again! And ladies… I also hear that a gin tour is on the cards!!
Watch what happened on the tour:
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