I’ve had my eye on Kelham Island Pale Rider since I first spotted it in The Book.
Not only is this a very well-regarded beer in its own right—Pale Rider was CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain back in 2004—but family connections in Sheffield meant that a visit to Kelham Island’s own brewery tap, The Fat Cat, was always going to be on the cards.
This weekend, I finally made it. It was a nostalgic sort of visit, having spent many school trips and family outings at Kelham Island Museum some 30 years ago. But this time I wasn’t there for education and amusement: I was there for a beer.
The Fat Cat is a tiny little place, and was justifiably packed on the busy Saturday lunchtime that I visited. It’s as genuine and as down-to-earth as pubs get these days, but it’s a real charmer. As one fellow customer remarked to her toddler “this is what pubs used to look like”. Thankfully some still do.
It’s also as friendly as can be, albeit in a no-nonsense Yorkshire sort of way, and it always, without exception, sells a cracking pint of Pale Rider.
Pale Rider is a beautiful golden beer, as you can see, though it’s a difficult one to categorise. It’s broadly in the same style as many modern American-style Pale Ales, and is hopped exclusively with American Willamette hops, yet its recipe predates the “craft” beer era by many years.
It goes without saying that as Kelham Island’s flagship beer, served at the brewery tap, it’s in exceptional condition. On first tasting there’s a huge hop explosion at the front of the mouth, but it’s perfectly balanced by juicy smooth malts, and a much fuller body than one might expect from the colour.
There’s almost a honeyed flavour and texture too, rounding out those delicious bitter hops with a hopelessly moreish sweetness, though I’m certain no actual honey goes anywhere near the beer.
My pint lasted about five minutes, and this really is the sort of beer that any beer drinker would love. You could give it to a lager drinker and it would be light and refreshing enough for their tastes, yet it’s unquestionably complex and satisfying enough for even a stout/porter lover such as myself. It also blows many “craft” drinkers’ usual pints out of the water.
The Fat Cat’s Pale Rider is an immediate entry into my top five cask beers of all time, and at something like £2.60 a pint, let’s just say that it’s a good job I live a couple of hundred miles away, or I’d never leave.
Facts and Figures
|Kelham Island Brewery, Sheffield, England
|The Fat Cat, Alma Street, Sheffield S3