York has a reputation for being a city full of excellent pubs, but it also has a growing reputation as a city of excellent beer. The city’s oldest brewer, York Brewery, has more recently been joined by Brew York and Ainsty Ales – all of whom produce some top notch ale.
Part working brewery, part tourist attraction, York Brewery is the city’s longest running beer producer – having been started way back in 1996. If you’re interested in the science and art of brewing they are open for tours and you can sample a few beers afterwards in their onsite taproom. The tours are £8 for adults, £6 for concessions and £4 for kids! You’ll see some beards, but definitely no moustache wax.
York Brewery produces five main ales: Guzzler, Yorkshire Terrier, Centurion’s Ghost, Blonde and Otherside IPA. The last two of these have both won awards and I believe are more recent creations to cater to changing tastes and a preference for paler ales. Guzzler and Yorkshire Terrier are classic English-style ales whilst Centurion’s Ghost is a darker, stronger beer that has been responsible for many a hangover.
Alongside these regulars, there are regular monthly or seasonal one-off brews. These can sometimes be a bit hit and miss – some are exceptional, whilst others much less so – so its always worth asking for a pre-pint taster.
Keeping up with the latest fashions, York Brewery have also started producing their own craft-style kegged beer. I have sampled the very drinkable Legion IX – a deceptively strong hoppy IPA – and they also make Britannia – a milk stout – and Imperium – a 7.5% imperial stout monster.
Opened in 2016, Brew York definitely has a more upmarket, hipsterish feel to it. Located just off of Walmgate, their tap room is open on a Thursday evening and on a Friday and Saturday from 12pm till late. You can enjoy a pint or two in the shadow of the brewing equipment or in their beer garden.
Despite the somewhat unimaginative name, their beers are complex creations – taking inspiration from both the English brewing tradition and the new wave “craft” revolution with its more hoppy American-style influences.
This mixed heritage has resulted in a really wide selection of beers. Whilst some are classic session ales that you could drink all evening, others – generally the ones with weirder names – are so flavour rich that one is often enough before you move on to something else. Taste-wise Viking DNA is a very unusual smoked porter, both Big and Little Eagles pack a considerable hoppy punch, whilst Jarsa is a tasty sub-4% pale ale.
Somewhat unusually, their beers are available in multiple forms: cask, keg and can. Having a personal preference for cask ales, I can only assume that with the longer life kegs and cans Brew York have their eyes on expansion into the wider national market.
Although, they are quickly getting a foothold in the local market, the best place to find the current range of Brew York’s beer is in their tap room. You can find out what beers they’ve got on here. If you don’t make it to the Brew York tap room, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for their beer in whichever pub you’re drinking in.
Taking their name from a former self governing area of York, Ainsty Ales are currently based in Acaster Malbis a small village just outside of the city. The farm location has its advantages as they can use their own hops that are grown just outside the brewery.
Rather than “pushing boundaries”, Ainsty seem to have focused on producing their own versions of classic brews. As a general rule I am not a fan of chocolate stouts or porters, however Ainsty’s Crafty Chocolatier is excellent with very subtle notes rather than overpowering chocolate flavour. Their pale ale and IPA are also particularly good. I enjoyed a bottle of the former – Ainsty Angel – just this weekend with some Thai food and it was the perfect accompaniment with the bitterness cutting through the sweetness and spice.
I’ve seen Ainsty Ales in a few pubs in town – they can often be found in the two Leeds Brewery pubs the Duke of York and the Eagle & Child – you can tell their beers from the large “A” on the pump clip. If you’re really keen to sample their ale you could give them a cheeky call or email to find out where they’ve delivered to recently.