I have soft spot for English Brewer Samuel Smith. Back when I was first getting into craft beer a friend of mine bought me a Samuel Smith Gift pack that contained 3 beers and a logo'd pint glass. Those beers (Nut Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout) really opened my eyes to some great beers and some insight into British beer and brewing traditions. In this day and age of huge brewing companies that are getting ever bigger (see, SABMiller's recent announcement that they are buying Foster's), Samuel Smith's stands out for being a family owned, brewery that was founded in 1758. In fact according to one source that I read for this post, Sam Smith is determined to continue old school traditions, using horse drawn carriages to deliver beer near their Yorkshire brewery. However tradition goes deeper than the surface, it goes down to how they brew which is using traditional methods specifically the Yorkshire Square. A Yorkshire Square is a cubic structure usually made in stone or metal (Sam Smith's uses Welsh Slate) and its prized because of a couple of things: it collects yeast during fermentation very efficiently due to the a hole in the top of the cube. During brewing a highly flocculated yeast is used and as it ferments and foams up the yeast travels through the hole and remains there on the top, while the beer stays below. (I know a hard visual to understand, but something I would love to see in practice). The other reason this method is used is that it can lead to a full bodied beer with fruity notes.
Sam Smith uses the Yorkshire method to brew all of their ales, including this one named Stingo. Stingo is a style of beer that dates back a few hundred years, and this particular one is aged in oak casks that previously held cask conditioned ale. It is stored in these casks for up to a year or more, and then bottle conditioned.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at 8.0% and pours a chestnut brown with a thin taupe colored head. The head dissipates quickly leaving just a thin barely there film on top of the beer. The nose is full of toffee, malty, vanilla, some oakiness as well, fruity esters. The mouth is medium bodied, notes of treacle, vanilla, oak, caramel, some dark fruits like figs and plums an oakiness is there as well. As it warms there is a spiciness that I can't place, it adds a nice level of depth to the beer. Also notes of cherry. There is a wine like quality to the beer as you finish it up. In true British style for what this beer is, there is an understated quality about it which is one reason why I really enjoy it. Its a big beer by traditional British standards at 8.0%, but light in body which makes it easy to drink. I don't get any alcohol quality to this one which makes sipping it slowly very enjoyable. A great beer and one more reason to go out and try some other Sam Smiths beers (I'm also partial to their Imperial Stout).