Wednesday's Wallop: Cragg Bitter From Little Moor
For this Wednesday’s Wallop, I return most happily to a company I reviewed about a month ago, Little Valley Brewery, based in Cragg Vale. Their Tod’s Blonde was our Beer of the Week and if you missed the piece it is easy to navigate to it and learn more about this excellent brewery.
Their outstanding Cragg Bitter, subtitled on the bottle ‘Bold and Malty’, makes me feel nostalgic in a couple of ways. Firstly, it is the absolutely identical colour of, and when I pour eagerly it has a similar slight cloudiness to, the nettle beer I used to drink at Six Days Only, in Heaton, Bradford, in my pre-alcohol early teens, when I was serving my apprenticeship, as it were, learning how to cope with a pint by volume.
Secondly, it is, if I may say so, an old-fashioned bitter, of the sort that my palate knows best and, in truth, probably likes best. It is brewed on a ten-barrel kit, high on the Pennine moors above Hebden Bridge, jointly owned by Wim van der Spek and his partner, Sue Cooper.
I speak to the brewer himself, first trying out my Dutch which persuades Wim he ought to reply in English. I compliment him on this nice malty traditional taste. ‘Yes, it’s a traditional bitter you don’t see too much these days,’ he agrees.
He tells me delicately that any slight cloudiness might be because of my over-zealous pouring of the bottle-conditioned ale. ‘Let it settle,’ he says, ‘it will clear like the draught.’
Ten years ago, apparently, this beer, then called Cragg Vale Bitter, was one of their very best sellers. ‘The fashion these days is for lighter-coloured beers, blondes and IPAs, in particular,’ he says, explaining why it has slipped slightly down the pecking order.
Seeing my look of disappointment, he adds hastily, ‘Yes but recently these old beers are coming back strongly.’
‘So who drinks this one?’
‘Well,’ he says, thoughtfully, ‘in the past the older public in general, mostly men, but we’re seeing bitters catching on with a much younger audience now which is great to see.’
I nod enthusiastically. For me it is the perfect beer to get me through the week or for any time and I am happy to let the brewery’s blurb speak for it: ‘Cragg Bitter sets off with bold, malty taste notes. It only takes a few sips before the Challenger and Golding catch up to up to provide a distinctive crispness building to a clean, malty and bitter finish.’
‘Tot ziens,’ I say optimistically, as we are parting, and he smiles and returns, ‘Tot de volgende keer!’
I mishear and say, ‘Yes, very good beer.’
Cragg Bitter is my Wednesday Wallop, the beer to get you through the week.
Little Valley’s beers may be found in many independent stores and selected supermarkets, including Morrison’s in Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Coop stores, selected Booth’s stores across the North and selected Waitrose stores in Yorkshire and Manchester. They are also available at various independent retailers in and around Yorkshire and Greater Manchester. It can also be obtained directly from the brewery through their website page: https://littlevalleybrewery.co.uk/shop/tods-blonde/