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When I joined Shepherd Neame at the start of the year one of the big projects that had just started was trial brewing of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.
Late in 2011 a deal had been agreed with the Boston Beer Company for Shepherd Neame to brew this world famous beer under licence in Faversham – the first time that it has been brewed outside the USA. January was a great time for me to join as I could get involved in brewing this superb beer!
Boston Lager is brewed in a very traditional way matching brewing techniques used in Germany for many centuries. The first stage of the process is a decoction mash where part of the mash is boiled and then added to the rest of the mash to bring the whole up to the correct temperature for starch conversion. German hops are used in the copper to give bitterness and dry hops are added to the fermentation vessel to give a delicate hoppy aroma to the finished beer.
Another traditional German technique called “krausening” is used during fermentation – this is where a small proportion of actively fermenting wort from a new brew is added to an older brew that has reached the end of fermentation. The process is carried out at low temperature and is designed to reduce the levels of diacetyl, a compound produced by yeast that has a butterscotch aroma. The beer has a very long maturation period of 28 days before it can be filtered and packaged – this meant that we had a long wait before we could assess the effect of the changes made to each trial brew.
We were in constant touch with the Boston brewers during the trials and the process culminated with a visit by their brewing director towards the end of April to sample the first batch filled into kegs. It was a real “Man from Delmonte” moment when he tasted the beer and pronounced it matched the US beer perfectly and could be sent out to the pubs.
We brew a range of international beers at Shepherd Neame so we are used to working with brewers from other countries but one of the really rewarding aspects of this type of project is that we always find there’s something new to learn about this fascinating process. It was great to have the chance to swap ideas with the Boston brewing team who are as passionate about their beers as we are about ours.