The Tudor Brewery is one I’ve encountered three times this year; the first time felt like summer, but may have been as early as Easter, and was in Abergavenny. My fiancé and I were returning from a failed assault on one of the areas famous peaks (without a guide map we weren’t even certain if it was the Blorenge or Sugar Loaf). Our water rations depleted, we staggered back down the mountain path and eventually hit the edge of town, but continued past tourist-packed pubs until we found a quieter one nearer to the train station. A pocketful of loose change, the only money we had, bought us a cup of tea and a pint of Tudor IPA. By God it was beautiful. It washed away the dusty summer dryness and replenished body and soul.
That happy encounter led me to seek out Tudor beers again, though I don’t remember the second time I drank them. All I have left is a fistful of tasting notes which by coincidence I rediscovered when I started drinking a pile of bottles I bought from a random Christmas fair in Cardiff.
The Tudor IPA made a welcome return in my bottle collection. The aroma of lemon and fresh cut hops transported me back to that sun-baked pub garden at the side of the road. The body is light and golden, and at 4% is closer to a pale ale than an IPA, but it’s their beer and they can call it what they like. The noble, earthy foretaste is followed by a sharp citrus bite and grain malt backbone, leading to a good, bitter bite in the finish and a lingering taste of citrus rind and herbal notes. It’s a thoroughly thirst-quenching beer that packs enough flavour without knocking you flat.
The Skirrid Ale was the one I enjoyed the least but I think has the potential to be one of their best under the right conditions. It had a flinty, ‘best bitter’ kind of smell (in the way that I recall best bitter to be when I was much younger, a Stones or Worthington’s quality brought on by that kind of Burton snatch sulphur note), with a touch of toffee and dried fruits. It reminded me of a pub saloon on a wet afternoon, with the rain and a newspaper for company, and that’s probably when Skirrid Ale is at its best, freshly poured from the cask.
Blorenge, named after one of Abergavenny’s peaks, was in the style of a pale ale, and after the delicious Tudor IPA it didn’t disappoint. I preferred the IPA, but Blorenge was a curiously pleasant beast which reminded me both of London and Yorkshire bitter at the same time, offering a hint of Burton snatch, yellow grapefruit and floral aromas on the nose, and a crisp, citrus and floral flavour that was nowt daft and easy-going.
The last one I tried is named after the other of Abergavenny’s peaks, and the name Sugar Loaf seems apt for this sweetish, dark ale. It has a mellow, smooth aroma of coffee, hazelnuts and chocolate brownies. Nut brown in colour and light bodied, it has a coffee-tang in the foretaste, a dry, thick chewy toffee midsection paired with woodland berries and a nutty, bramble finish. Was it my second favourite? Maybe it was. In a range of ales that seems inspired by hill-walking, Sugar Loaf is the perfect autumnal ale, ideal for supping after a vigorous trek up the hill and returning to the pub just as night draws in.
I don’t often see Tudor beers but I’m happy to say I snap them up when I do. I highly recommend you do too, if the opportunity presents itself.
Also worth mentioning is over at the Grill & Barrel there’s an excellent insight into the background and people of the Tudor Brewery.