Samuel Smith Old Brewery in Yorkshire, England, blends tradition with unique new beers.
British brewing is steeped in history and tradition. Some of the most popular styles brewed today India pale ales and Russian imperial stouts were created there.
But many beer geeks complain that British breweries have failed to evolve through the years; that they stick to tradition in the face of evolving palates and advances in brewing techniques.
The Samuel Smith Old Brewery in Yorkshire, England, could easily be one of those breweries that fail to change.
It is already one of the most popular imported craft breweries from England. It has tons of tradition and is more than 250 years old.
And it brews almost every style that a brewery from England is expected to brew.
Yet it has not sat on its laurels. This year alone, Samuel Smith has released four new beers, some of which are nontraditional as far as British beers go.
The newest beer is the Yorkshire Stingo. Stingo is slang for "strong," and this is one of Samuel Smith's strongest beers, coming in at a hefty 8 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
Although not seen too often nowadays, Stingo is a traditional style of strong ale from Northern England.
Stingo is aged in oak barrels that have been used for more than 100 years to age other Samuel Smith beers.
Stingo has an array of out-of-this-world flavors. It is one of the top beers of 2009.
It's an extremely complex beer, with so many different types of flavors going through it. It's the kind of beer where one person will taste one thing and another person will taste something completely different.
When you drink Stingo, you should be able to pick up some caramel toffee flavors, fruitiness, a hint of vanilla from the oak barrels and maybe even some raisins.
It's also the most expensive of the Samuel Smith beers. Most will run you less than $5 for a Victorian pint (18.7-ounce bottle), but the Yorkshire Stingo will cost you more than $12 at most places.
The other three new beers are decidedly nontraditional for British beers a trio of organic fruit beers.
Fruit beers are popular here and in Belgium, but there is only one regular brewer of fruit beers in England, Melbourn Bros.
In fact, Samuel Smith's three fruit beers - strawberry, raspberry and cherry - are brewed and fermented at Melbourn and then brought to Samuel Smith where they are conditioned, aged and packaged.
Samuel Smith's versions of these beers are better than Melbourn's fruit beers. Melbourn's are cloyingly sweet.
The aging and conditioning of the fruit beers by Samuel Smith mellows out the sweetness. They are still sweet - at least the raspberry and cherry are - but the edge is gone. I skipped the strawberry due to a childhood allergy to the fruit that left me with a strong distaste to anything with a hint of strawberry in it.
Also relatively new from Samuel Smith is the Organic Cider. I'm not much of a cider drinker, but I found this to be outstanding.
If these aren't for you, Samuel Smith brews several other beers definitely worth seeking out.
The Imperial Stout and Oatmeal Stout are fantastic. The Imperial Stout is probably the best brewed in England. It's dark as night and flavorful, but not overwhelming like many American imperial stouts are.
The oatmeal could be the best brewed in the world. It is smooth, flavorful and has a sweet/bitter thing going.
The Nut Brown Ale is another standout, while the Taddy Porter, the brewery's first beer, is wonderful.
Other beers from Samuel Smith are the Old Brewery Pale Ale, the India Ale, Pure-brewed Lager, Organic Ale and Organic Lager.
Samuel Smith Old Brewery beers are widely available.
Norman Miller is a MetroWest Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail email@example.com or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.townonline.com/beernut/.