The first brewery tour I ever went on was to the Black Sheep brewery in Masham, with my Dad and brother. That’s a fascinating tour if you ever get the chance - Theakston’s brewery was bought up by Scottish & Newcastle, and Paul Theakston set up his own, more traditional brewery right under their noses - and Black Sheep remains one of my favourite bitters (I wish it had occurred to me to pick up a bottle for a side-by-side comparison).
While I remember some details of that tour, what sticks in my mind most was that it was the first times I heard Dad tell drinking tales. He’d lived in that part of Yorkshire when he was younger, and by the sounds of things had taken full advantage of the rich local brewing tradition. I can understand why he’d been reticent to share the stories before - as impressionable teenagers, telling us about the time he and a friend drove home from the pub with one steering and the other doing the pedals would probably not have been very responsible - but the fact he did seemed extremely important at the time.
This, of course, has little to do with Mary Jane apart from a spurious geographical connection, but there’s something comfortingly familiar about this ale. It’s clean and crisp, mildly caramelly and refreshingly hoppy. It shares some characteristics with the Pale Ales I’ve been enjoying of late, but isn’t as aggressive or expansive as any of them. At 3.8%, it’s also a decent conversational pint. I think Dad would have liked it.