Champion sheep will front new beer by Wylam Brewery

WHEN it comes to a second slice of fame, Walton Rocket the ram is anything but sheepish.

WHEN it comes to a second slice of fame, Walton Rocket the ram is anything but sheepish.

The Blue Faced Leicester sheep is the current Northumberland County Show Champion of Champions following his success at last year’s event.

And at this year’s show on May 31, his face will front a new real ale being brewed to celebrate the event.

Walton Rocket will appear on the beer clip for The Champion ale, created by Wylam Brewery at Heddon on the Wall in Northumberland.

The brewery has been appointed as official licensee of the public and members’ bars at the Northumberland County Show at Tynedale Park in Corbridge.

Walton Rocket is owned by Northumberland farmer Alan Forster, and is only the second sheep ever to win the overall champions title. Alan, of Lowes Fell Farm between Hexham and Haydon Bridge, said: “It was his character and outlook which won him the title. He attracts attention and hopefully he will have the same effect for the beer.

“On the day of the last show he was bright and looked like he was looking forward to the event. He was up for it.

“He just has this bright sparkle about him and he will be competing at this year’s show along with some of his offspring,” said Alan, who has been breeding Blue Faced Leicesters all his life.

If Walton Rocket or his youngsters land another prize, then Alan’s celebratory drink of choice will be cut and dried.

Of Walton Rocket’s success last year, show judge Kay Thompson said: “He has that championship quality. He has that definite special presence.” County show secretary Gaynor Shotton said: “Having a beer depicting our 2009 prize animal is a very fitting tribute to this sheep, one of the only two sheep in the entire history of the show to win the coveted title.”

Walton Rocket will also be competition for the long-established Black Sheep ale.

“He is certainly a striking sheep and I think he will give Black Sheep a run for its money,” said Wylam Brewery business development manager Matthew Boyle.

The Champion will also commemorate the 30th anniversary year of the Tynedale Agricultural Society. The beer is a traditional English best bitter which will include hops grown in the North East.

The First Gold hops will come from The Hop Garden in High Spen, Gateshead, which is run by Sarah Cossom and husband David.

They grow three varieties of hops on the organic allotment community garden – First Gold, Fuggles and Challenger.

“I am ecstatic that they are using our hops. It makes a local beer even more local,” said Sarah.

“Hops are not the easiest plant to grow in the North East but they are not impossible.

“During the winter I tuck them up under sheep’s fleece,” said Sarah, who also makes hop pillows which help people sleep.

Matthew said: “The local hops will help give the beer a crisp, fresh finish. They’ve done really well to grow them.”

This is the first time real ales will have been available at the show and on offer will also be Wylam’s top seller distinctive Gold Tankard as well as ales From Allendale, Hexhamshire and Matfen High House breweries.

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