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Import Friday – Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project

December 17, 2010

I’m going to take a departure from a normal Import Friday. You could almost say this it’s a double departure as a normal Import Friday doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Now let’s wind it back to a single departure. Instead of writing about a single beer from a single brewery I will write about a many beers from a single brewery. Kind of like that de Ranke post. The main difference is I won’t be attempting to quantify my opinion of the beer with a single word. Heck, I won’t even be using a number or even a letter. I’m just going to straight up let you know how fucking awesome Pretty Things’ beers are.

Before we get to the beers let me share you the story of Pretty Things. Pretty Things are known as a gypsy brewer, much like Denmark’s Mikkeller. They have no physical brewery in which they own, yet they crank out world-class brews. Now let my cut and paste skills tell the rest of the story.

It all started in Yorkshire, England, at the time home to beer-brewer Dann Paquette and his wife (tea-brewer) Martha. Dann was brewing at a small family-owned “real ale” brewery in Harrogate and Martha was a scientist in York. On the weekends they’d explore the nearby Moors and Dales and the small towns and pubs that are dotted about them.

One of these small towns, Ripon is home to a fantastic cathedral, which stands guard over an ancient Saxon crypt, hidden down a narrow staircase. But the jewels of the cathedral are the 15th century misericord carvings in the choir. Pigs play the bagpipes, swimmers are snatched from the sea by monsters, apes fight lions, a fox preaches to a chicken from his pulpit, wild men prowl the forest, a mermaid preens, griffons strut and Pliny’s mysterious “Blemya” inhabit this magical world.

The volunteers who work at the cathedral are quick to point out that Lewis Carroll’s father was a residential Canon here in the 1850’s, and Lewis didn’t hide the fact that pages of “Through the Looking Glass” were written here. One carving shows a Griffon chasing a rabbit down a hole. So Dann & Martha weren’t the first to be inspired to creativity by these carvings.
Here’s the Cathedral website: check it out when you’re in Yorkshire http://www.riponcathedral.org.uk

Before long Dann was summoning a “John Barleycorn” character called “Jack D’Or” (Jack of Gold). A wise old grain in the form of a blemya, Jack has roots: in Yorkshire, in Ripon, in Belgium where monks from Yorkshire took the brewing craft…

But Jack stands on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, where he has been brought and given many new leases on life. With a great, gleaming moustache, knee-deep in a wooden mash tun, he conjures himself into beer. Helped along by the other “Pretty Things” like the mischievous hops and the transformative miniscules we know as yeast – a magnificent fester would no doubt ensue! One of the most joyful transformations in nature, better than any rabbit from a hat, beer is the result.

That is the inspiration of Pretty Things!

On the beer side “Pretty Things” is an obvious extension of the sort of things Dann’s been brewing or talking about brewing for years. But these beers are for fun, not for display! Our beers are not precious jewels, they are happy peasants! Their motto is “Good Time Artisanal Beers”: hold them to it!

On to the goods, beer!

Pretty Things have one flagship beer, Jack D’Or. Hopefully you read all those italics so, you can understand the name. If you did read the italics, then you know that they talk kinda funny over at Pretty Things, and that’s not their Northern British accents. So, I’m just going to show how well I can cut and paste again, because I couldn’t describe their approach to this beer anywhere as well them.

“Jack D’Or” is a simple table beer, or “Saison Americain” as we’re referring to it. We are not trying to coin a beer style – we’re just having fun. At PRETTY THINGS we don’t brew styles per se. Instead, we re-imagine everything and leave the style numbers in books on the shelves where they belong. What that means is that while other people might be able to put our beers into a category, we have a hard time with it! Our beers are first and foremost creative beasts, not “types” of beer. Jack D’Or is the kind of beer Martha and I like to drink before, after and during a great meal. Heck, we’ll drink this sort of beer any time.

The sourness of Jack D’Or make take you by surprise at first. Yet once you get that initial shock, you find a beer that is most certainly saison-like. Jack D’Or is incredibly drinkable yet, complex. Shit, I want one now.

Next up we got St. Botolph’s Town. Billed as a “rustic dark ale,” this beer pays homage to great British beers such as; Theakston’s Old Peculier, Robinson’s Old Tom, Yorkshire Stingo and Morocco Ale. You could call it an Old Ale, but we just learned that Pretty Things don’t follow style guidelines. I’m just going to call it delicious. You can call me biased as Old Peculier is one of my favourites on cask. When I was living in England I went out for a weekly lunch with my Grandparents and their friends. I mostly went for the beer, it certainly wasn’t for the food.

My most recent Pretty Things is one of their newest, Hedgerow Bitter. It’s brewed exclusively with “UK grown hedgerow variety hops: Pioneer, First Gold and Sovereign.” My take on it: Dirty, visceral, raw English hops that unrelentingly attack your tongue with tangy powerful bitterness that makes you ask for more with every damned sip; all the while a beautiful malty princess watches this assault and smiles.

Next up we have Field Mouse’s Farewell. Cut and paste action go! “It’s a late spring seasonal beer: French, rustic, 7%, full of different grains: Rye, Oats, Wheat and Barley.” A blend of British, Belgian and French grown, or influenced, ingredients producing a golden ale. Light, yet strong, fruity and yeasty, Field Mouse’s Farewell is an enjoyable beer.

Baby Tree is next. It’s billed as a “quadruple” brewed with plums. Suffice to say, and creepy label aside, Baby Tree is one of those exceptions to the rule beers. The rule? Fruit beers made in America suck. It seems like Belgian, or Belgian-styled, beers are always the exception to the rule. Regardless, Baby Tree is so damn nice. You should go to the website and read the story of Baby Tree. It involves the village of Sexhow and Dragons! My family lives very near Sexhow. There is a nice brewpub in Stokesley (a pair of miles away) if you’re ever in the area.

Pretty Things collaborated with brewing historian Ron Pattinson. To be straight forward, and blunt, I wasn’t a fan of this beer; however, I think this beer must be experienced. If you can find it. It’s might be because it’s a glimpse in the past. I think it’s a combination of that and it’s extreme uniqueness. Then again, would you expect anything less from Pretty Things?

Up next is a hopped up Tripel-styled beer called Fluffly White Rabbits. There are about a handful of beers I’d love have connected to me in some kind of IV set-up. Ya know, those kinds of beers you could just drink for the rest of life and drinking that beer was the rest of your life; and you wouldn’t complain. Fluffly White Rabbits is one of those select few.

And last on my list of Pretty Things beers I have drunk so far is American Darling. I saved it for last as it was the only beer from Pretty Things I didn’t fully enjoy. Something seemed off about it. Not offensive, just off. If you’re a fan of pale lagers, go for it.

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From → Beer, Import

5 Comments
  1. Sean permalink

    Where the heck did you find Pretty Things in BC? I’ve heard of them, and am very curious to try, but according to their website they really don’t distribute beyond New England.

    • The better liquor stores should stock their beers. It’s easy to find Pretty Things in Victoria and Vancouver. As far as outside of those two cities goes, Village Green in Vernon stocks Pretty Things.

      • Sean permalink

        Excellent, had no idea they were all the way out here. Granted, Prince George selections leave a lot to be desired, but next time I’m down south I’ll for sure pick some up. Thanks for the heads up!

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