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Britain’s oldest brewer Shepherd Neame has launched a new cask ale calendar – including five new beers. The calendar includes new beers from the brewery’s Classic Collection, available on draught for the first time, plus established seasonal favourites and themed celebration ales, there is now a beer for every month of the year and more!
With more draught beers than ever now available, the expanded seasonal ale range will offer a choice of 15 ales throughout the year, in addition to the brewery’s four core year-round flagship brands. Every beer is brewed with chalk-filtered mineral water from an artesian well deep below the brewery and 95% of the hops used in the cask ales are grown within Kent.
The additions to the Classic Collection sees an exclusive range of five draught beers recreated from historic recipes discovered in the brewery’s archives, which showcase more than 300-years of brewing.
The recent discovery of two recipes for Double Stout and India Pale Ale written in cipher in 19th century brewers’ logs to avoid them being copied, led to the brewery deciphering the code and bringing them back to life as bottled beers in October 2012. Now, for the first time, they will be available on draught.
Double Stout (4% abv)
First brewed in 1868, the methods used at Britain’s oldest brewer remain remarkably similar, most notably brewing takes place in the UK’s last remaining oak mash tuns. A classic stout, it combines the complex flavours and characteristics of four different roasted malts, traditional roasted barley and generous quantities of flaked oats. It is bittered with the choicest East Kent Hops. A magnificent example of a stout, it delivers a velvety smooth palate of dry, burnt flavours. Truly a black, creamy masterpiece, Double Stout is available from 25 February to 24 March.
India Pale Ale (4.5% abv)
Shepherd Neame’s original recipe, the India Pale Ale followed in 1870. The beer style’s origins are rooted in the creation of a heavily hopped beer that would withstand the rigours of arduous journeys to the colonies. A true IPA, it is full bodied, malty and balanced by a mouth-watering hoppy palate and a glorious fresh, spicy aroma. It is hopped at four stages of the boil, with two varieties of Kentish hops – Fuggles and East Kent Goldings. India Pale Ale is available from 3 to 30 June.
Three more Classic Collection ales will join Double Stout and IPA in the new seasonal cask ale line-up:
Mild (3.5% abv)
The silky ebony hue of this beer leads to a complex aroma of dark chocolate, mocha coffee, vanilla and a smokiness reminiscent of autumn bonfires. A smooth rich blend of dark chocolate and roasted coffee hits the palate complimented by subtle hoppy, fruit flavours. Velvety cocoa flavours linger on the palate, making Mild a darkly delicious gem of a beer. Appearing just before India Pale Ale in the cask ale calendar, it is available from 6 May to 2 June.
Brilliant Ale (4% abv)
There is a legend at Shepherd Neame that Brilliant Ale was inspired by the vision of the bright early morning sun sending its golden shafts of light through the brewhouse window and onto the oak mash tun, inspiring the brewing team to brew a beer that echoed these hues. The recipe uses 100% pale malt and is bittered by the choicest East Kent Golding hops. Hugely popular in its day, this pale, golden, brilliantly bright, hoppy ale has risen Phoenix-like from the ashes of time for the modern drinker to enjoy. Brilliant Ale is available from 2 September to 6 October.
Porter (4.8% abv)
This last Classic Collection ale to appear in the calendar, Porter is a rich dark beer with an aroma of oranges and dark chocolate. This warming, silky smooth ale has full flavoured roasted notes emanating from the malt, as well as underlying liquorice notes. The fruity spiciness and balanced bitterness comes from locally grown Kentish hops. Porter is available from 18 November to 15 December.
Shepherd Neame marketing manager, Mark Miller comments, “Our most exciting cask ale calendar yet, we’re giving licensees many opportunities to entice their customers into the pub. People want beers with distinct character and we believe that the Classic Collection delivers just this, with superb heritage for the seasoned ale drinker.”
The Classic Collection will expand and enhance the current core seasonal ale calendar, which provides a change of beer style and flavour following the natural rhythm of the four seasons:
Amber Ale (4.5% abv) was first brewed in 2009 and heralds the start of the year, available from the end of January to the end of February. This winter warmer with the fruity aroma and full malty palate is brewed for the coldest months of the year.
Early Bird Spring Hop Ale (4.3% abv) signals the arrival of Spring and warmer days and delivers a fresh floral delight. A pale golden beer, which is also available in bottles (4.5% abv), it is available throughout March and April.
Canterbury Jack (3.5% abv) is a light, refreshing contemporary beer which slips down nicely on long lazy summer days. Named after the 17th century fairground tinkers from the Kentish cathedral city infamous for their roguish antics, Canterbury Jack is available throughout May and June, also in bottles (4.0% abv).
Late Red Autumn Hop Ale (4.5% abv) is a hugely popular, triple-hopped ale featuring Cascade and East Kent Goldings, evoking Autumn’s mellowness. This full-flavoured, rich and complex ale is available from September until the end of the year, also in bottles (4.5% abv).
The core seasonal calendar, along with the new Classic Collection ales, will also be punctuated with some more recent Shepherd Neame creations. Designed to add even more variety and generate additional business opportunities, these beers have been developed to celebrate key dates:
Dragonfire for St Georges Day (4.5% abv) is a celebration of the best that England has to offer, containing malted barley, oats and wheat plus Goldings hops to give a full-bodied rich beer with a mahogany hue. It is available from the beginning of April in time to raise a glass and celebrate the nation’s patron saint on 23rd April.
Samuel Adams Blonde Ambition (4.5% abv) is a special brew from Samuel Adams to celebrate American Independence Day on 4th July. Brewed at Shepherd Neame’s Faversham brewery from a recipe devised in conjunction with the Boston Beer Company, it uses equal measures of US and UK hops. The result is a summer pale ale with a delightful blend of grapefruit notes from the US Cascade hops and grassy earthiness from the Kent hops.
Queen Court Harvest Ale (4.5% abv) is the Faversham Hop Festival Ale, an annual celebration of hops held during the first weekend of September, which will now be available from the end of August through September. The ale is dry-hopped using fresh, green hops from the present year’s harvest and is available from 19 August to 18 September.
Green Hop Ale (4.5% abv) is brewed for Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight at the end of September. Instead of the usual dried hops, the brew uses the new fresh green hops and showcases the full array of esters and aromas usually lost in the drying process. A zesty pale beer with a pronounced floral bitterness, its name reflects the absence of the drying process in the Oast house. It is available from the 18 to 30 September.
Spooks Halloween Ale (4.7% abv) is a devilishly great beer with a biscuity palate derived from blending three roasted barley malts in the mash. This is contrasted with the citrusy hoppy bitterness from a fruity hop which is added four times during the brewing process. Available throughout October, also in bottle (4.7% abv), it offers protection against ghouls to anyone who drinks it (honest!)
Christmas Ale (5% abv) is a full-bodied warming winter ale, light in colour and characterised by a delicious, fragrant hoppy aroma & palate, which sees out the year from mid-November. Also available in bottle (7%), it’s an awesome after-dinner drop and completes the seasonal calendar.
Running alongside the ever-changing seasonal calendar, the core range of Shepherd Neame ales includes: flagship beer Spitfire Premium Ale (4.2% abv); Master Brew (3.7% abv); Kent’s Best (4.1% abv); and heritage brand Bishops Finger Kentish Strong Ale. All will continue to be available throughout the year.