We are quite fortunate to have quite a few local breweries near to us is Chesterfield. One of these local beer producers is Spire Brewery. They have a brewery tap (a pub that is tied to them and serves their beer) in New Tupton, not far from Chesterfield, called the Britannia. It is here that we usually get to sample some of their excellent beers. One of our favourites at the moment is Dark Side of the Moon.
Spire Brewery Ltd is based in two industrial units in Staveley, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. The owner and head brewer is David McLaren, an ex secondary school teacher and member of the Her Majesty’s Scots Guards. He was a home brewer before finally taking the plunge and starting up as a professional brewer; brewing their first batch of beer in March 2006. Since then their 10 barrel plant has produced some great beers and have gained fans all over the UK.
Spire use only natural ingredients – only malt, hops, yeast & water and no artificial additives. They are also as environmentally friendly as they can be – they are as energy efficient as possible and mainly supply beers to local outlets to cut down on transport (known as low beer miles). They produce a range of regular, seasonal and special beers, mostly in cask form, but some can also be purchased in bottles too.
Of their range you may see Sgt. Pepper Stout (a rich dark stout with real pepper at 5.5% ABV), Land of Hop and Glory (a golden hoppy ale at 4.5% ABV) and Nocturne Porter (a smooth coffee flavoured beer at 5.7% ABV).
*A Bit of Background*
To fit in with the musical background of the brewer and his partners, a lot of their beers have a musical connection to their name. For example we have Twist and Stout, Whiter Shade of Pale and Overture. Dark Side of the Moon fits this theme perfectly – it is a dark beer, so the Pink Floyd song was just made for it!
Dark Side weighs in at 4.3% ABV and is brewed using Fuggles and Goldings hops. It is brewed in the style of a Mid Ale – a beer brewed to be less hoppy than a bitter, stout or porter. Milds do generally tend to be lower in strength than other beers and are often darker in colour – but this is not always the case as there are strong Milds (like Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby) and light coloured Milds (like Timothy Taylor Golden Best). Milds were very popular in the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. Their popularity waned in the latter half of the 20th century and it seemed as though Mild was dying out as a beer style.
The trend is being bucked recently and Milds seem to be enjoying a resurgence in recent years – more breweries are producing Milds and one was even named Champion Beer of Britain at the 2007 Great British Beer Festival (for Hobsons Mild).
*Look, Aroma & Texture*
Looks wise, Dark Side is a deep ruby coloured beer with a small off white coloured head. Aroma has hints of toffee, chocolate and slightly sweet biscuity roasted malt. Texture is light to medium bodied, with very little carbonation.
*Tange’s Taste Test*
Dark Side is an easy to drink beer with a good mix of flavours. Initially it is quite sweet, with a good amount of toffee and caramel sweetness. This leads to an increasing dryness, ending with a finish that combines the bitter with that underlying sweetness. The aftertaste is quite short lived, but is also mellow and quite rich.
WHAT I THINK
As I said before Dark Side is easy to drink and is very moreish. It is a good beer to drink over a session and the subtle, but interesting flavours work very well together. The colour is very pleasing to the eye and the taste is as good the beautiful deep ruby colour of the pint in the glass. I have sampled Dark Side of the Moon many times and have always found it to be a well crafted example of a Mild Ale – not too strong, not too hoppy, but with bags of flavour and lots to offer.
My last few pints of Dark Side have been enjoyed in the Britannia at Tupton, where we pay 2.10 a pint for beers of this strength. The good thing about this pub is that the price is based on the strength of the beer, so you know where you are when choosing what to drink. We have paid anything between this price and 2.50 for a pint, depending on where we are at the time – prices unfortunately vary considerably from pub to pub a lot these days! Expect to pay anywhere between the two prices and you won’t be far wrong.
I have no hesitation in recommending Dark Side of the Moon, whether you are a Mild fan or not. The subtler flavours make it a good stepping stone into drinking darker beers – it isn’t as strong tasting as a Stout or as astringent as some Bitters can be. What you really need to do is give it a try and decide for yourself.
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