North Union Brewing, Dubbel
Dramatic hyperbole concerning Sheffield’s status as ‘The World’s Best Beer City’ to one side, the place certainly has a lot going for it from a beer perspective. There are some 23 active brewers within the city itself and a further 34 within a stone’s throw. OK, so maybe Derbyshire is more than a stone’s throw but you get the drift.
But the problem is that a lot of it is, well, a bit old fashioned. There are a certainly a lot of great brown beers on cask but not so much in the way of varied continental styles. Or beer on keg. That’s certainly a view shared by Iain Kenny, founder, director and head brewer at North Union.
Like many of us, Iain’s interest for beer started when he was just below legal drinking age. In Iain’s case it was working in an off license which prompted a fascination of the different styles of beer. Pretty soon he was dabbling as a homebrewer and shortly after went off to study brewing and distilling at the Heriot Watt University, a place that just seems to churn out world class brewers.
After his studies Iain returned home to Sheffield and landed a job Kelham Island Brewery where he quickly became the head brewer. If you’ve been to the Fat Cat in the past ten years there’s a good chance that you’ve already sampled some of his brewing prowess.
But travel had whetted Iain’s appetite for some less traditional beers and in 2011 he set out on his own.
Starting as a cuckoo brewer at the Harthill Brewery Iain set about developing a small (by modern brewing standards) range of beers, each one noticeably different from the next. In 2015 he secured a railway arch in the city and North Union had a home. In his own words he is “in the process of renovating the place”. That’s Yorkshire for completely rebuilding it!
This week’s beer, the Dubbel is a rich dark take on the classic Trappist style brewed with a blend of five different malts and wheat fermented with a specially procured Belgian Abbey yeast. Iain is a big fan of Belgium and the beers and this was one that he really wanted to make for himself. It’s boozy but not too boozy, dark but not too dark, sweet but not too sweet. We love it.
Talking to Ian it’s clear that he’s really interested in how we experience the beer. He recognizes that this might be the only beer you are having that evening and he wants it to be special. So where you are, who you are with, what you are doing, what you are eating and what you are listening to are all important to him.
For this beer he really recommends that you get some good quality chocolate, something nice and dark, and try it with the beer. The slight sweetness to the beer helps to cut through a dark, bitter chocolate which in turn brings out the fruit in the beer. We aren’t going to argue with that.