Saturday, 29 October 2016

Ruddles County

An old County pumpclip from its glory days
Last night, my local had the current incarnation of Ruddles County on. I used to love this beer when Ruddles was an independent brewery, but it was taken over 30 years ago and has since been owned by Watney's, Grolsch and Morland, until the latter was taken over by Greene King.

I haven't had this beer for 20 to 30 years, so I was interested to see how it might compare. I found quite acceptable, but it has no resemblance whatsoever the original County that I remember. For a start, the strength is now 4.3%, whereas 30 years ago it was advertised, as you can see, as O.G. 1048° - 1052°, which would roughly translate as 5% nowadays.

I don't think it's just the strength that has changed, although a change in strength usually does alter a beer's flavour. It has a touch of the Greene King flavour, sitting somewhere between their utterly bland IPA and the over-flavoured Abbott. I'd be amazed if they claimed their current brew is in any way derived from the original recipe, but even if it were, it's no longer brewed in Langham where the well water was famously reputed to give beer a unique character.

It's not a bad beer, but if there's anything on the bar that looks more interesting, I'd suggest you have that instead.


  1. On occasional trips up the A1, I've come across Grainstore Ten Fifty. Brewed in Oakham, with an ABV of 5%! A rich, bittersweet strong bitter, much as I remember County in the 1970's, not that I kept tasting notes back them. I tried a County in a 'Spoons a while back for old times' sake, but wasn't impressed.

  2. Wetherspoons pubs are the only place I see Ruddles now, and as there's invariably something more interesting on the bar I never order it.

  3. When I was a student in the 90s I mainly drank the lout as you know. One bitter I did neck was Ruddles County in these little stubbie type bottles from Liquor Save. It had a good bang per buck and nice taste.

    I went to a beard festival in the town hall near the university and me and a pal got stuck into this 9% stuff which was not a common type of grog in the pre craft era.

    I said I liked Ruddles County and the beard told me it was rubbish as it wasn't real. I misunderstood it as a comment on metaphysical reality rather than a definition of a beer dispense type. 9% grog is strong stuff for an undergraduate.

    I was later ejected from a KFC, unaccustomed as I was to 9% beer.

  4. Oh, the humiliation! Thrown out of a KFC! I feel your pain.

  5. Ruddles sold their brands and their brewery (they has already sold their pubs), to Grand Metropolitan – the owners of Watney’s, back in 1986. From that moment on it was all downhill, with a succession of different owners and the eventual closure of the Langham brewery, deep in rural Rutland.

    A year or so after the acquisition, I received an invitation to tour the brewery from Grand Met’s PR Company. Watney’s had invested a substantial sum for upgrading and expanding the brewery and, quite laudably, had allowed Ruddles to keep control over the purchasing of raw materials. Whole cone hops were also used. The tour concluded with a cold-buffet style lunch, with copious quantities of beer. At lunch we met the brewery chairman, Tony Ruddle, who was understandably very enthusiastic about the deal.

    Just five years later, control of the brewery passed to Courage, who in turn sold it to Grolsch; and five years after that, it closed. I wonder whether Mr Ruddle still thought it was good deal?

    1. Thanks, Paul, that's a very interesting personal recollection. It also shows the value of undertakings made by the big boys when they swallow a small company, something Meantime is in the process of learning, having been sold by AB InBev to Asahi.

  6. It's rare for a beer to be changed into something so completely different, that doesn't even make any attempt to be like the original.

    I certainly remember when County was considered something special, that you would go well out of your way to drink.


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