Our First Brewers' Blog

Posted: 20 October 2010

Author: David Holmes

This is another milestone in Shepherd Neame history, the first-ever Brewers’ Blog.  We have been looking forward to the launch of our amazing new website, complete with a blog area. Here it is in all its splendour and we hope you have fun and enjoy it.

The Brewers’ Blog will be a great way for us to communicate directly with you. The Blogging Brewers are David Holmes, Head Brewer, along with Stewart Main and Stewart Tricker. We are all senior Master Brewers with nearly a century of experience between us in making great beer. Together we hope to provide you with up-to-date information about what we are doing here in Faversham and we will be happy to answer any questions.

There could not be a better time to start the blog: the website is up and running, the harvest is all but over for both malt and hops and we can concentrate on getting our recipes right for the coming year.

The barley harvest has proved to be tricky this year for a number of reasons. The weather, as always, had a significant impact. In the south, the harvest was trouble-free with average yield and good quality but further north, rain prevented the combine harvesters from cutting at the optimum time. In some cases barley had started to sprout in the ear. This is known in the business as pre-germination and this grain would be no good for brewing. The real news on the cereal front came from Russia which lost some crops due to fire. This caused a significant drop in the yield which has had a dramatic effect on price.

So, as with most things, there is good and bad news. The good news is that there is plenty of malting barley available; the bad news is that the price has rocketed.

At the start of October, Shepherd Neame holds a Hop Blessing service in a local church. Prior to the church service we have the Goldings Lecture and the keynote address this year was given by Dr Debbie Parker from Campden BRI. Debbie talked about the different aromas and flavour characteristics that hops bring to beer. At the blessing, we gave thanks for the hop harvest and celebrated the end of the season with hop growers, brewers, merchants and local dignitaries. The service was followed by a Hop Pickers’ Lunch with beer and song. A good time was had by all.

What about the hops? The very cold spell in January and February was not a bad thing for the hops. The bines over-wintered well and, when the sun shone, the hills produced a fine display of shoots. The dry weather in June and July caused some concern, as hops like plenty of water. Fortunately, the rain in August came just in time to allow the hops to “fill out” and, by the time picking started, the crop was looking good. All the indications are that while the overall yield is average to good, the quality is good with some great aromas.

Finally, what’s brewing? Christmas Ale 2010 is brewed, bottled and in the shops and we are looking forward to brewing some Porter in time for Christmas.

Well, we had better get on and make some beer. More about that next time.


David Holmes - Head Brewer

You can follow me at twitter.com/dholmesbrewer