BLACK SHEEP OF THE FAMILY

I promise I’ll never do a “My favourite beer” type blog post. As you know, beer is 95% pub (cellarmanship and turnover) and 5% mobility scooter. ANYONE can make potentially good beer, apart from that Cotswold lot.

But Black Sheep (Best Bitter or Ale) is possibly the beer that I most often go “Oooh, that’s good” to when sinking a swift half in a workaday dining pub in North Yorkshire. It was my beer of the year in 2019, after all.

The livery on the free houses they supply is always reassuring.

And it will always liven up a dull Ember Inn in Milton Keynes.

I didn’t realise they owned any of their own pubs, but they must have bought a few off York Brewery recently.

If you’re searching out your own ale trail, make sure you take Stafford Paul with you. “I think I can see Black Sheep“ he said, peering into the dead rooms at the Ram’s Head in Congleton.

I just stuck “Black Sheep” in the search facility of my own blog, and was staggered how many times I’ve drunk it recently. Far more than Bass. Or Plum Porter. Or Cloudwater v Evil Twin.

Rather like TT Landlord (but a quid cheaper), it gets around. Here it is in a plain Midlands boozer in Aslockton, accompanying “Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now” and “Never Gonna Give You Up”. Similar titles, same year, different worlds.

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Si will love the Cranmer, and not just for the sweets machines.

And here it is again, in a Midlands boozer, the wonderful Half Moon in Rugby. Any excuse for a pic from the Half Moon.

My conversion to the Sheep really started at (appropriately) the Shoulder of Mutton at Kirby Hill, just off the A66.

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Some Durham folk checked in for their Bank Holiday break.  They did a convincing act of “never having been in a pub before“, presumably for my entertainment.

What name shall we use, Charles ?”

No, not that one

If that’s their idea of clandestine, they’ve no hope.

One downside of the Sheep is that you don’t always get it in its own glass, as here at the Gate in Cutthorpe;

Actually, you’re quite fortunate to get it in a branded glass.

Here’s Black Sheep in a scuffed Tetley glass in Ironbridge this year.

But does Sheep cross the border ?

Well, here’s another good example from Anglesey last year. Oddly, the Christmas Elves were on the Malibu and milk, despite the quality of the Sheep’s lacings.

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And here’s one from Joe Dolce-loving Drummore in Galloway, where it’s replaced Belhaven Best as their lone beer.

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One beer pubs serving well-known beers being your best bet ? Where have I heard that before ?

13 thoughts on “BLACK SHEEP OF THE FAMILY

  1. Thanks for doing a whole blog post about what has been my favourite beer for the last two or three years. I think it went through a bit of a bad patch earlier this decade, but I reckon since 2017 I’ve only once come across it in a pub when it’s not been quite right, at the Buck in Reeth (where it was “a little tired”, though still “drinkable”). By contrast, I rarely go for Timothy Taylor Landlord because I’m so fed up with finding it in poor nick and having to pay over the odds for it too; and even when Landlord is “right” it’s still not as good as Black Sheep, and I wouldn’t have said that 30 years ago.

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    1. I remember you saying that in Buxton now you mention it.

      I reckon last 3 years as the heyday too. Perhaps higher volumes with the contract for Ember, and consistency means it stays on the bar when other beers go off ?

      Landlord is nearly always a let-down; funny how its reputation remains intact. Again, I’ve had the odd good pint so I think it’s mostly due to being sold as a “look at me” beer in the more upmarket pubs that don’t have a lot of drinkers, but I may be overthinking that !

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      1. (Sorry for being so repetitive!) It’s the dry, bitter finish that I expect to find in all the great English bitters that seems to go missing in Landlord when not kept well. Boddingtons in the 80s – bowdlerised; Tetleys in the 90s and 00s – sweetened; Landlord in the 90s – blandified; Black Sheep – missed a step or two but now one of the best, along with Bathams, of course, and Kelham Island Best. Kelham Pride of Sheffield is also very good, and Tapped Ale at the Sheffield Tap is a superbly bitter drink. (I’ve probably said all that before, somewhere or other. Staffordshire Mudgie will no doubt be along later to tell me exactly when and where.)

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      2. Sheffield Hatter,
        No, I can’t keep track of exactly when and where much happens.
        But I did hear last week of the retirement of the last of the Nodding Donkeys, last used by me twice in April year on the Hope Valley line to Sheffield.

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  2. “ANYONE can make potentially good beer,”

    Reflected in how many do home brew… though I did see you cunningly snuck ‘potentially’ in there. 😉

    “I didn’t realise they owned any of their own pubs”

    I can see Si going to… half of those. 🙂

    “peering into the dead rooms at the Ram’s Head in Congleton.”

    It’s almost like a super power!

    “I just stuck “Black Sheep” in the search facility of my own blog, and was staggered how many times I’ve drunk it recently. Far more than Bass. Or Plum Porter. Or Cloudwater v Evil Twin.”

    Blimey!

    “Similar titles, same year, different worlds.”

    Almost all songs boil down to either getting the girl, losing the girl, or getting the girl and then wishing you hadn’t. 😉

    “My conversion to the Sheep really started at (appropriately) the Shoulder of Mutton at Kirby Hill”

    (slow golf clap)

    “just off the A66.”

    Crickey! I just about scrolled right by the OS map!

    Let’s see… um… oh, I see Hutton Magna. Didn’t he marry Doris Carta waaaaaay back, and they hyphenated their last name?

    And what’s the difference between a Sturdy Ho and a Buddie Ho?
    (asking for a friend)

    “If that’s their idea of clandestine, they’ve no hope.”

    Can’t go wrong with Smith. 🙂

    “But does Sheep cross the border ?”

    As much as a chicken crosses the road?

    “Oddly, the Christmas Elves were on the Malibu and milk”

    If that’s what I think it is, over here we call is Moose milk.

    “One beer pubs serving well-known beers being your best bet ? Where have I heard that before ?”

    You’ve been reading your own material again, haven’t you? 😉

    Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, I really do re-read my own posts sometimes (often when I see that an old post has just been read by someone in Hungary), and nod sagely “That retiredmartin is right again”.

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    1. That’s exactly right, James. I never agree with the line that “Harveys/Bass/Pride” is better or worse than it was; for me it’s all about the care of the publican, serving it at the right time through clean lines, and the speed of turnover. When you find a perfect Doom Bar you’ll know it !

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