I promised to tell you what goes on at Hunmanby Grange, which Richard and I visited yesterday. The answer: they brew beer. For this is the home of the Wold Top Brewery, our local producer of real Yorkshire ales.
Their beers couldn’t be more Yorkshire. The barley is grown at the Grange on the farm, and they have their own water supply too, from a borehole in the chalk of the wolds. They are at pains to stress that this is no overgrown “home brew” hobbyist outfit; it’s absolutely professional, using the latest hi-tech equipment, combined with traditional ingredients and flavours – and above all, the traditional ambition to make distinctive, tasty beers. Which, in our view, they succeed in doing.
We were impressed by the setup, and of course by the ales, many of which we already know and like. Needless to say, like all the visitors, we paused at the bar during our wanderings around, and sampled two different beers that we haven’t tried before, including Wold Top, their most popular. Sitting on top of the wolds drinking Wold Top…what better way to spend time on a summer’s day?
We brought home some supplies too (well what would an Open Day be without a decent discount on the produce?) including our favourite of all, a bitter called Falling Stone. It’s named after a famous meteorite which landed in these parts in 1795, and caused quite a scientific stir. More about that anon: let’s stick to beer for now.
Beer-making in Britain goes back thousands of years, to before the Romans conquered here in the first century AD. The Romans themselves didn’t go much on beer, presumably because they could produce wine around the Mediterranean. But in more northerly latitudes, the Celtic peoples of Britain, France and Germany brewed it, and continued to drink it even when the Roman conquest gave many of them the chance to get a taste for wine as well.
Especially in the army. By the time Rome invaded Britain (43 AD – sorry, I’m a historian, so I’m allowed the occasional date,) troops were mostly men from inside the Empire, but outside Italy, and the various tribes of Britannia, Gaul, and Germania were among them. They saw no reason to give up their favourite tipple.
One of the letters found in the famous cache of correspondence at Vindolanda, a fort on Britain’s northern frontier line, includes a request from soldiers on patrol for further orders, finishing with the plea, “We have run out of beer. Please send some.” So the tradition of the beer-drinking squaddie goes back at least two millennia. May it last another two.
Congratulations to Wold Top, and small independent breweries everywhere. More power to them! After all, we value wines especially highly if they come from a particular region, and their taste is distinctive. We should value our beers in the same way. Especially when they originate so very close to home.