Organic English Beer

samuel smith beer review by jan walsh Samuel Smith is Yorkshire’s oldest beer and USDA Organic.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Samuel Smith is among the few independent breweries remaining in England. They brew at The Old Brewery at Tadcaster, Yorkshire's oldest brewery founded in 1758 when its original well was sunk. The well is still used today for drawing brewing water from 85 feet underground. Traditional brewing methods have also been retained here including making its own copper, repairing its oak casks, and hand-weighing hops by the master hop blender. Its naturally conditioned, draught beer is hand-pulled from oak casks. And the brewery has used the same strain of yeast since the 19th Century. Samuel Smith’s ales and stouts are fermented in “stone Yorkshire squares,” made of solid slabs of slate. The brewery also keeps tradition with its team of Shire horses, among the last active dray horses in the world, delivering beer in Tadcaster. Samuel Smith also operates over 300 pubs, offering only beers produced by the Tadcaster brewery and serve no large corporation spirits or soft drinks.

Samuel Smith beers arrived in the U.S. in 1978 and quickly became the benchmark ales for an emerging craft beer movement. They also remain among the most awarded today. Unlike many other beers made and sold in the United States, Samuel Smith’s beers are brewed solely from authentic natural ingredients. They contain no chemical additives, no raw material adjuncts, no artificial sweeteners, no colorings, no artificial flavorings or preservatives. While ingredient labeling on food products and non-alcoholic beverages is required in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration, it is the Department of Treasury that oversees alcoholic beverages, not the FDA. So with no ingredient labeling required for beer and other alcoholic beverages sold in the U.S., most beer companies do not disclose ingredients simply because they are not required to do so. As a result much of the beer sold in the U.S. can and does contain the following: MSG, Propylene Glycol, Calcium Disdium EDTA, sulfites, anti-microbial preservatives, high fructose GMO corn syrup, GMO sugar, GMO caramel coloring, dyes made from petroleum, insect based dyes, animal based clarifiers, BPA, carrageenan and more.

You will not find these ingredients in Samuel Smith’s beers. Rather than hiding ingredients their bottles’ back labels proudly show and tell the story of and where and how it was made. And their ingredients list can easily fit on the front label. For example, Samuel Smith’s Pure Brewed Organic Lager includes “organic malted barley, organic hops, yeast, and water.” This gorgeous larger is golden in color, and brewed with organic malted barley, organic hops, medium-soft water and bottom fermenting yeast. Then it is matured at low temperatures to a secondary ferment, from which it acquires a delicate flavor and a finish of soft hops. Chocoholics, such as myself, love Organic Chocolate Stout! It is brewed with well water, roasted organic chocolate malt, and organic cocoa. Dark in color, full in body, this beer offers notes of barley, is smooth, creamy, and chocolaty in flavor. Samuel Smith’s Organic Fruit Beers are brewed at Melbourn Bros. "All Saints" Brewery, in Stamford, which it operates. Organic Raspberry Ale is a fruity, thirst quenching beer, made with organic raspberries. It is burgundy in color, boasts an appealing structure and depth, a smooth body and dry finish. And Organic Strawberry Ale is rust in color, delightfully light and aromatic with refined notes of strawberries, with a medium body. Samuel Smith beers are also vegan products, registered with The Vegan Society.