Theakston Old Peculier

December 22, 2010

Peculiar people. Pensacola, like any old where I suppose, has its share. From the storied trash-sculpture yard of westsider Reagan Wimpy to the eccentric gent who strolls down Twelfth Avenue under the dubious moniker of “The Crack Cowboy” due to his eponymous Stetson hat, bow-legged gait and erratic behavior. There’s even that skinny beer-swilling weirdo that’s constantly bothering people with his Cliff Clavin-esque collection of useless trivia.

Peculiar indeed, but not peculier. Peculier was the name given to English churches and districts that wished to fall under the jurisdiction of the British monarchy rather than be subjected to the possible self-servient whims of a regional bishop. Basically, it was a method of protecting their ecclesiastical interests. However, in the case of Masham in North Yorkshire, England, it was given to York Minster during the medieval period but the archbishop didn’t wish to make the long trip to oversee the town’s affairs. Thusly, Masham became a peculier due to the peculiar behavior of one man and did so in a peculiar fashion.

Enough of that word. It’s getting p… uh, weird to keep typing it. Masham is home to Theakston Brewery. Founded in the old Black Bull Pub in 1827, their beer was so sought after that they expanded operations by 1875. Over the next hundred years their reputation grew large enough to attract attention from larger breweries and, like so many others, they got swallowed up and almost left to die. Thankfully the brewery is back in the hands of the Theakston family and the Old Peculier is still around.

It’s a darker version of the classic British ale and it transcends most others in the category. Old Peculier is cocoa colored with coppery highlights showing around the edges. A tall head of bubbly cream leaves behind paw print lacing in the glass. Incredible scents of fresh-shelled hazelnuts, brown sugar, raisins and a touch of dark cherry dominate the nose. This smooth textured ale is packed with flavors of treacle, caramel, toasted grains and a malty, almost whiskey-like smokiness. Fuggles, Challenger and Target hops balance things out perfectly with the right amount of bitter bite. Thoroughly satisfying and completely sessionable at only 5.6% alcohol, only an oddball would pass on a bottle of the Old Peculier.