When I woke up this morning the sun was peeping out from behind the cumulus clouds which were travelling in convoy from the Atlantic to the North Sea. It was a day to do something, to achieve something. It was a day to visit a brewery tap. For those unfamiliar with British pubs a "brewery tap" is a pub which is usually physically attached to a brewery and therefore represents the prime source of that brewery's beers. Yorkshire's oldest brewery is Samuel Smith's Old Brewery in Tadcaster. It's brewery tap is the splendid Angel and White Horse. It was time for a visit.
There is a lot about the Smith brothers and the Angel and White Horse that is complicated. If Sherlock Holmes had been a drinking man he would have called it a "two pint problem". Here I will limit myself to the story of the Angel and White Horse and perhaps save the story of the Fighting Smiths for my News From Nowhere Blog. Situated at a crossing point of the River Wharfe, Tadcaster has always been an important centre for transport and communications. In the eighteenth century mail coaches en-route to York, London, Newcastle and most other places worth travelling to passed through the town. Many of them would make use of the two fine Georgian coaching inns that graced the main street : the Angel and the White Horse. Besides its transport links, Tadcasters' other claim to fame was brewing : there are written records of brew houses in the town in the fourteenth century. In 1758 a modern brewery was built on the land behind the White Horse. The brewery - which is now known as Samuel Smith's Old Brewery - is still in production today and is Yorkshire's oldest brewery.
In the 19th century the Angel was closed down and eventually the White Horse went up-market and became the Londesborough Hotel. In the twentieth century there was less need for coaching inns but - with the growing success of Sam Smith's brewery - a greater need for brewery offices. Most of the Londesborough Hotel was converted into offices but part of the hotel was joined up with part of the old Angel Inn and the Angel and White Horse came into being (when this is done in the second-hand motor trade it is known as Cut and Shut I believe).
Whatever its history, the Angel and White Horse is a splendid place to drink a pint and reflect on history. It matters not whether it is political history, social history, or the history of the wart on the back of your hand : the wood panelled rooms provide a pleasant contemplative atmosphere. If you look out of the window into the courtyard you can almost imagine the horses driving the mail coach into the yard. And if you are really lucky you might actually see the mighty grey horses from the adjacent brewery.
I had a pint of Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter (what else could you possibly drink in such a location?). It tasted malty and fresh, almost as if it had been brewed just the other side of the wall and the barrels rolled straight in (it had, they had). It was a honest beer, a tasteful beer in every sense of meaning. You can find a host of perfectly acceptable photographs of Venice but nothing quite compares to the thrill of seeing the original . In exactly the same way you can probably buy a bottle of Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter in Aberdeen or Arkansas or Alaska. But few things compare to drinking that pint in the Angel and White Horse. And at just £1.37p a pint (that's just $2.26 for my American friends) why would you want to go anywhere else?