Tag Archives: Old Ales Barley Wines and Vintage Ales

6. Theakston’s Old Peculier

Masham in North Yorkshire is a tiny market town that lives and breathes beer, perhaps almost literally. With two significant breweries – the Black Sheep brewery, and its older brother, Theakston – between a population of barely over 1,200 people, the air must be potent with the aromas of the brewing process.

Masham’s most famous export is unquestionably Theakston’s Old Peculier, a genuine legend which will be deeply familiar to most beer lovers, myself included.


Old Peculier absolutely must be served at room temperature to really appreciate its depth and complexity. This is a thick, dark, strong Old Ale with roasty, toasty and smoky fruit flavours and a respectable 5.6% ABV.

There is nothing wimpy about this beer whatsoever, but it’s remarkably easy drinking, as the hop flavours are subtle enough to avoid a lot of bitterness, quite in contrast to something like an IPA. It’s really quite moreish, but I think Old Peculier is a perfect beer to be slowly savoured by the fire.

Best of all Old Peculier is available almost everywhere. I found this bottle in the least glamorous of convenience stores. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last!

Facts and Figures

Brewery: T&R Theakston Ltd, Masham, North Yorkshire, England
Style: Old Ales, Barley Wines and Vintage Ales
ABV: 5.6%
Found at: Costcutter, Norwood Road, London SE24
Dispense: 500ml Bottle

1. Robinson’s Old Tom

Where better to start then, than with the self-professed “World’s Best Ale”? At least, that’s what it says on the bottle, although it doesn’t elaborate on the basis for the claim. I think we’ll be the judge of that.


Old Tom is a strong Old Ale weighing in at a daunting 8.5% ABV which, following on from Old Freddy Walker’s 7.3%, is enough to have me thinking this 300 beer challenge could be more than I bargained for.

The beer pours a very dark ruby colour, with a large off-white head that quickly dissipates to a faint lacing. There’s a toffee/caramel nose that suggests we can expect a lot of sweetness to help cover that hefty ABV.

So, is this the world’s best ale? Well, no. In fact it’s pretty unpleasant. That tooth-jangling sweetness is there in abundance, while the body is cloyingly sticky and thinner than Posh Spice’s left contact lens.

Aside from the sugar, the predominant flavours are of an inevitable hangover and £2.15 that I’ll never have back, though there’s a smoky, bonfire toffee note that just about saves this beer from being utterly repugnant.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Robinsons, Stockport, England
Style: Old Ales, Barley Wines and Vintage Ales
Strength: 8.5% ABV
Found at: Sainsbury’s, Westow Street, London SE19
Dispense: 330ml Bottle