In my report on the day I reported “…but later in the afternoon in the company of several brewers there were a lot of ad-hoc “have you tried this?” samples poured…”. Amongst those brewers were the head brewer and the marketing director from Okells, a brewery from the Isle of Man. They were in high spirits as their ‘Okells Aile’ had just won a prestigious gold medal.
Time for a short lesson… the Isle of Man is a smallish (about thirty miles long and about ten miles wide) island off the north west coast of England, mid-way between north west England and Northern Ireland. In fact, there is a regular ferry service across the Irish sea between Liverpool and the island. It’s a crown dependency, which gives it some degree of independence from the UK, although it shares our currency, it has its own parliament (the Tynwald -the world’s oldest parliament) and tax regime.
In many respects it’s an off-shore tax haven – but without the tropical climate of Curacao or the Grenadines. Its other major claims to fame are that its local cats (Manx – that’s a term for anything from the Isle of Man) have no tails, and that it annually hosts ‘Tourist Trophy’ (or TT) motorcycle races on (closed) tortuous public roads in late May and early June – about now (as I type this) in fact. There’s a link to the official TT website here.
Heck, you’re getting history, geography, economics, motorsport AND beers in one review! Am I good value or what?
Anyway, the history… Okells is a brewery with an interesting heritage, it was founded by Doctor William Okell in 1850. He then set about acquiring pubs on the island to promote his brews, and in 1874 he convinced the Tynwald (local parliament – remember?) to introduce an act ensuring the purity of beers sold on the island – based on that German law. Oh, and at about the same time he built a new, purpose built brewery – ‘The Falcon Steam Brewery’ to ensure that his beers complied with the purity law he had proposed. I like his style!
Over the years the Okells name has been taken over by a number of other breweries, but in recent years has undergone a revival; a new modern brewery was opened in 1994 just outside Douglas – the island’s capital. They now have an extensive range of regular and seasonal ales and it was a source of considerable pleasure when I arrived home the other day to find a quantity of their ales waiting on my door-step!
Clearly the beer fairies had been visiting, thanks guys!
So, let’s try a couple of these beers!
This is a limited edition beer, originally brewed in 2007 to commemorate the centenary of the Island’s TT races. Just 6000 bottles were produced and the beer was so well received they now brew it annually. In 2007 it won an award at the World Beer Awards in the ‘Strong Pale Ale’ category and in 2008 it was awarded a special diploma by the British Bottlers Institute in the ‘strong ales’ category. But as regular vistors to this site might have gleaned, I tend to be sceptical of awards.
Okells 1907 is a summer ale, brewed to 6.2%, so despite its Tourist Trophy associations it’s certainly not one to imbibe before hurtling around the 37 mile TT circuit on a motorbike!
It pours bright and clear, with a full creamy head that gives that great shushing sound as it subsides. The nose is hoppy with distinct hints of grapefruit (Amarillo hops I wonder?).
And it tastes as good as it looks… looking back at my notes I wrote ‘bright, hoppy, citrus lemon and grapefruit’. As summer ales go (and until now I’ve not been a fan of summer ales) this is really enjoyable.
It’s deceptive, there’s no evidence of the 6.2% strength, unlike many Belgian Ales that advertise their potency, this is really refreshing and, I suspect, could catch out the unwary.
The other notes I wrote included ‘satisfying and refreshing’… that works for me, I’ll happily give this three and half stars!
Okells Mac Lir
As you can see, what I poured was not what I was expecting. Clear and golden, with very little head, this is a very different wheat beer!
So, to the nose – we know just what to expect don’t we boys and girls? Orange peel, coriander, cloves, bubble gum? Nope, none of the above, like the 1907 this is a full citrus nose, heavy on the grapefruit, but with less obvious hops than the 1907.
And the flavour follows the nose, very refreshing, very citrussy and not at all like a wheat beer.
Imagine a cross between a summer ale and a lager and you’re getting close to Mac Lir. It’s not as hoppy as a summer ale, and doesn’t have the aroma you’d normally associate with a wheat beer. I confess I found myself wondering why I wasn’t simply drinking a summer ale, a lager or a ‘proper’ wheat beer?
That said, it is very refreshing and I wouldn’t have any problem at all having another, and at 4.2% it’s more quaffable than the 1907.
I’ll give this three stars, despite not being a ‘wheat beer’ as we know it.
Bob the Brit