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Something for the Weekend – Black Sheep Riggwelter

My other half and I opt to stay in England for the duration of August rather than jet off to sunnier climes. Every year we live in hope that we will get a sweltering summer, and with considerable smugness we can then go off on our travels in September. We have stuck to this plan for the past decade, full of anticipation that we are going to enjoy a proper British summer, and without fail we are always sorely disappointed. So last weekend, having got up on Saturday and seen ominous grey clouds, we decided to go to the cinema instead of sitting in our thermals in the garden. Neither of us are great cinema go-ers, we never fully agree what film suits us both, what time of day is best to go, and we’re both usually asleep before the trailers have finished. It’s an expensive way to have an afternoon nap, and to be honest, we would both rather go and have a beer. But having a free Saturday together, quite a rarity, we set off on a mission to go and see Dunkirk. We had heard good things about it, and it was a toss up between this and a bawdy female road movie which the other half flatly refused to go and see.

The film started with lots of shouting, guns, planes, ships, boats, more boats. In the quest to follow any kind of narrative, I fell asleep, woke an hour later, and there was still lots of shouting, guns, planes…you get the picture. With a sneaky peak at my watch, I realised within twenty minutes we could be in a bar having a well deserved beer. Before I go any further, please note that I am not a film critic, my taste is somewhat questionable. The Railway Children is my ALL TIME favourite film, and much to the embarrassment of my Pa, I have run along many train platforms shouting “Daddy! It’s my Daddy!” (If you’re confused at this point, you definitely need to watch The Railway Children). I’m sure some of you will enjoy Dunkirk in its entirety. But in all honesty, I would rather have had a beer.

Emerging like moles, blinking from the darkness of the cinema, we hit one of Leeds best known beer haunts. I went in full throttle and ordered a bottle of Rochefort 10. The Beer Husband took his time at the bar and returned to our table with a glass of dark, syrupy looking beer. It was Wild Beer Co’s Millionaire Stout. I’ve only ever had this beer once before, from a bottle, and it was luscious, chocolatey, full of caramel – and perfect for a cold wintery evening. The keg version was as close to perfection as you get.

But as my musings are meant to be about cask ale, and I know you can’t get this beer on handpull, I started thinking about what was close to this. And I came up with Black Sheep’s Riggwelter. I feel slightly guilty that I haven’t included any of Black Sheep’s beers in my repertoire of Something For The Weekend beers yet. I’m the first in line to shoot down the beer snobs and their rejection of any beer perceived as mainstream, and in this instance, I hold a gun to my head.

Black Sheep produce some cracking beers; they’re family owned and run (by the impossibly handsome Theakston boys), they’ve had a massive success story, and Riggwelter is the unsung hero in their stable. In a few words, a Riggwelter is a sheep which has rolled over onto its back and can’t get back up again. And at 5.9%, I’ve had a few of those moments. This is a beautiful dark, strong ale, with rich espresso aromas, dark fruit and roasted malt flavours. Maybe not a beer we associate with summer time, but considering summer has just turned its back on me, I’m doing the same and turning my back on my spritzy summer ales.

This beer stands up to any strong rich meat, like game, especially grouse. Any robust cheese will square up to its stewed stone fruit flavours. Any chocolate pudding will blend and meld with its notes of liquorice and coffee. Yes, it’s a traditional wintery beer, but in our climate of unpredictable weather, it’s a great beer to turn to, rain or shine.