Well, here’s an example of a British brewery that is undergoing its own renaissance. Batemans Brewery of Wainsfleet in Lincolnshire.
The brewery was first founded back in 1874 by George Bateman, who initially rented the brewery and learned the art of brewing from a a local brewer – Edwin Crowe. The brewery passed to George Bateman’s son, Harry, in 1919, but the years immediately following the First World War were lean times for brewers. Legend has it that at one point Harry was forced to lay off his entire workforce, but took them back when he realised that there were no other employers locally that could take the workforce on.
The Batemans Brewery logo is a windmill and, as a (late) teenager growing up in Sheffield, it was quite common to see the ‘Batemans Windmill’ on a bar-tap, usually accompanying their XB Bitter. I have fond memories of Batemans XB from those days.
To the Batemans family’s credit, they remained independent through the latter part of the twentieth century when family breweries were bought (and closed) by the major brewers – at one point (around the time of the millinium, I think), when the British brewing industry was such that three corporations were so dominant that, even if ‘number four’ had bought every remaining independent, micro-brewery and brew-pub, they would still have been ‘number four’.
I digress, recently Batemans have introduced a range of, let’s call them ‘craft’ beers; exotic flavourful brews to tickle the most jaded palate, and their renaissance is heralded by an updated logo.
I encountered the first of these new brews during the early rounds of 2013’s ‘Sainsburys British Beer Hunt’ – it was Batemans Bock, brewed (as the name might suggest) in the style of a European Bock beer. It went on to win the Sainsburys Beer Hunt that year, and is now widely available in their supermarkets here in Blighty.
Bock, you might recall, is the German for ‘Goat’, hence the illustration on the label, although not a classic label, IMHO.
Unlike most European Bocks, Batemans Bock is an Ale, and so top fermented, rather than a bottom fermented Lager as are most European Bocks. That said, the recipe is firmly European – including Black, Cara, Chocolate, Crystal, Munich and Pilsner malts; the hops are exclusively Hallertauer Tradition, one of Europe’s ‘Noble’ hops.
It pours a very dark copper colour, with an enthusiastic head. There’s not as much lacing as I might have expected, but you can’t have everything.
As you’d expect, the rich malts dominate the nose and the flavour, those delicate Hallertau hops are almost blown away by rich, dark fruit – almost malt-loaf. The rich malts linger on the tongue while the remaining hops tickle the rest of the palate. Oh, and then there’s the six per cent alcohol lurking, eager to trap the unwary.
Using The Brewclub’s own patented scoring system, this is a beer that accomplishes what it sets out to, and so merits a firm four stars. I don’t recall ever tasting a top-fermented Bock before, but this’ll do. This’ll do very nicely indeed.