Salop. Ye olde name for the pretty county of Shropshire, home to rolling hills and meadows, quaint medieval market towns, and a key player in the Industrial Revolution with the innovative iron works on the river Severn. The straw chewing, wellie wearing yokels that inhabit this charming place also make some pretty damned good beer. Founded in 1995 at The Old Dairy on the outskirts of Shrewsbury (or Shrows-bree if you’re posh), which is a mere half hour drive from my humble abode, Salopian Brewery chuck out some 80 odd barrels a week. Most of this is ”real ale” or traditional English cask ale (and festooned with awards so it is!), but they also knock up a few US inspired craft beers from time to time with their white label range. And I’ve got some, woohoo!
First up is Automaton (7% abv IPA). Hopped with Saaz and Citra and brewed with a small percentage of wheat alongside the barley, this whipped cream topped murky orange brew is bursting with tropical fruit punch aromas which follow through wonderfully into the beer. Obscenely juicy and fruity, with mango, peach, passion fruit, and tangerine in the lead, followed by evergreen and a slight herbal quality. The malt offers up caramel covered biscuits, but it’s subdued. A long way from a typical English IPA. It’s dry and bitter at the end, and quite lovely. A new addition to my top tier of UK brewed US style craft IPA’s.
Next up is a collaborative brew between Salopian and Celt Experience from across the border in Wales. Sentinel (8.4% abv Double IPA) pours a deep, dark amber and has the same epic marshmallowy head as it’s predecessor. The aroma’s a delight, marmelade, mango, spruce, and maybe a little strawberry. Maybe. The fields surrounding the village I live in are laden with strawberries at the moment and the very air smells of them when the wind picks up. A sip. Yeah, this is another good ‘un. Sweet and fruity up front with tropical fruits, orange marmalade, breezy pine, and yes, strawberries! There’s a decent whack of chewy toffee malt and a big, bold bitter end. Very nicely done.
Lastly, Black Ops (7.4% abv Black IPA). Once again there’s wheat malt in the brew, and packed with an intriguing international blend of Sorachi Ace, Brewers Gold, and Amarillo hops, I’m hoping for something a little different. This stuff pours black, even with the sun shining to hold the glass against there’s barely any light getting through. The head is just as impressive as the others, big and fluffy and mocha coloured. There’s more mocha in the aroma, with bitter citrus fruits, hints of wildflowers, and a earthy, spiciness. Fantastic. Time to take a sip. Strong tangerine and lemon citrus lead, there’s dried flowers, blackberries, and a building wave of cocoa and espresso ( I didn’t wanna write mocha thrice in a paragraph. ‘Cept I just did. Damn.) from those dark roast malts. An earthy, spiciness creeps in towards the finish, like chewing on random undergrowth, bringing a long and lasting bitterness with it. Damn, this is good.
And so I reach the end of my Salopian adventure. These three UK craft beers from a brewery better known for it’s more balanced, traditional brews are all fine example of their respective style. Automaton for the American IPA’s that are the face of the young but quickly growing UK craft beer scene (as they are everywhere I s’pose), Sentinel for the lesser seen Double IPA, And Black Ops represents Black IPA’s in a way too few do over here. This, and the stunning complexity offered not just by the hop / malt marriage but by the early hop assault alone, puts it firmly amongst the very best examples of the style I’ve had yet, irrespective to where it came from. It also means Black Ops makes the biggest impression on me of the three. Does that mean it’d be the one I’d recommend? Hell no, get ‘em all. Cheers!