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Black Beer, West Yorkshire

More British food legends

The black beer brewed by Mather’s is a strange beast, for several reasons. With consumption largely confined to West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire it is very much a regional taste. Even though it is more than 8% abv, for arcane reasons relating to its very high original gravity it is duty free. It is a beer but uses no hops, and is almost exclusively used as a mixer.
There are several near relations of this surviving black beer dotted about the world: in Germany Schwarzbier is enjoyed in several regions, a very dark, heavily malted brew, though lower in alcohol content than Mather’s. Malt beer is enjoyed in the USA and in South America – and sometimes still in Scotland. And in the days when temperance was a powerful movement in Northern England black beer of a rather different style was brewed in Lancashire – Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar in Rawtenstall still serves black beer and raisin – a clue to the origin of the Mather’s drink perhaps, in that both are supposedly tonics.
Some daring souls drink black beer neat, but this is more of a trial than a pleasure – the drink is thick, mouth coating, very sweet and very malty, though with a bonfire toffee charm hidden in there somewhere. But mix it with something else and the results are interesting. A proper rum and black is with black beer rather than the blackcurrant that many bartenders will provide if unchecked, and this is a drink with a history – supposedly a way of making scurvy prophylaxis palatable to sailors in days gone by, black beer containing a high concentration of vitamin C. Mixed with lemonade you have a refreshing and malty shandy, known in Yorkshire as a Sheffield Stout. And some enjoy it as flavouring for milk, pregnant women it seems enjoying this tipple, though there is a legend that says pregnant women drinking black beer will have twins.
Sometimes seen elsewhere in the country on the shelves behind the bar, in with strange drinks from rather more exotic spots than Leeds , black beer is perhaps an acquired taste, but worth giving a go once or twice.

2 Responses to Black Beer

From Phil Smiff on 7th August 2012
I grew up on this stuff and after moving further south found that it is stocked in Morrisons Supermarkets which of course originates from Bradford

From Kathy on 24th November 2009
Black beer sugar hot water&Rum keeps away the cold and revives the almost corpses of northern winters,now living in the south I have to have it shipped in specialy

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