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Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
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Des de Moor

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From the cellar: Salopian Gingersnap

Salopian Brewery

Brewery

ABV: 4.7%
Origin: Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
Websitewww.salopianbrewery.co.uk
Date: 16 April 2001

Another review from the  written for the pioneering Oxford Bottled Beer Database (OBBD). I’ve left it uncorrected — so please read it in that historical spirit.

Salopian is something of a survivor, reinventing itself several times since being founded by Martin Barry as Barry’s Brewery in a brewpub in the Snowdonian village of Gellilydan in 1992. Known for a while as the Snowdonia Brewery, it became Salopian when Martin relocated to Shrewsbury in 1995. Unusually for a British micro of the time, during this period and as referenced below it concentrated on bottled beers in unusual styles for outlets like Oddbins and Safeway, a strategy which in retrospect seems way ahead of its time.

At the time I wrote this review, the bottling activity was tailing off — as mentioned below, this beer might even have been contract-brewed at Brakspear — and Salopian became much more of a conventional British micro, brewing cask beers in traditional styles largely for the local market. There were several changes of ownership, with Martin leaving in 2004, but also fairly consistent expansion. The current phase began in 2008 when a new sales manager, Jake Douglas, spotted a trend and helped guide the brewery in a more hop-forward direction, with beers like Darwin’s Origin and Oracle.

This strategy has triggered further expansion and in 2014 Salopian moved to a bigger site outside Shrewsbury in Hadnall. The range is now very different and Gingersnap has long since disappeared.

In the late 1990s, this Shrewsbury-based brewery became a mainstay of British off-licence chain Oddbins’ forays into fine beer, with an imaginative bottle-conditioned range that gleefully mixed British tradition with a taste for wheat, fruits and spices inspired by continental models. Oddbins’ involvement apparently saved the brewery but then the retailer seemed to lose some of its enthusiasm for beer and Salopian slipped from its lists.

Having snapped up and enjoyed every Salopian bottle I’d encountered in my local Oddbins, I was pleased to see the brewer still making a showing at specialist retailer Bottles, though according to the current Good Beer Guide its bottled product is now brewed at Brakspear in Henley.

Gingersnap is typical of the brewery’s eclectic verve: a wheat beer flavoured with root ginger. The basic beer is more in the German style, brewed with malted rather than unmalted wheat, and is a deep reddish-copper colour with a reassuringly Germanic firm rocky head. It is, however, only slightly cloudy, and probably would have been even less so if I’d noticed the label’s instruction to pour British-style, without the sediment, before I’d sloshed it into the glass.

The aroma is dominated by ginger, with some hops, and the ginger continues in the mouth, but never overwhelms what turns out to be a beer with a complex, wheaty fruit character that remains crisply dry, aromatic and slightly herbal. In the finish the ginger proves beautifully warming, and the beer lingers with bitter-hop flavours and some spicy, zesty fruit. A thoroughly delicious and successful experiment that should be much more widely available.

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