Independent family brewer Shepherd Neame launched its 2023 Cask Club last month with new beer Maverick (3.4% ABV), which tells the story of the pioneering founder of the Faversham brewery, Richard Marsh.
Each Cask Club beer has been carefully crafted by one of Shepherd Neame’s Master Brewers – with Maverick personally overseen by Director of Brewing Mike Unsworth (pictured below with a pint of Maverick)
In the first of a new series of Meet the Brewer features, we sat down with Mike over a pint of Maverick to learn more about his passion for brewing, and understand how he and the team came up with the idea for their latest creation:
When did you first get into beer?
I joined the Courage group in 1989 after completing a sandwich year at the Charles Wells Brewery as part of my degree in industrial biology. The brewery closed in 2010 and I worked for a short time as an operations manager for Coca Cola before moving overseas to become plant manager at The Cascade Brewery Company in Tasmania. I joined Shepherd Neame in April 2018.
What does your role at Shepherd Neame involve?
I lead our brewing team in the production of our award-winning beers, from great British classic ales such as Spitfire Amber, which carries the Royal Warrant, to Bear Island East Coast Pale Ale, and the Whitstable Bay Collection. We also brew international lagers under licence including the original Thai beer, Singha. Part of my role includes working with the team to develop new beers, which was one of the reasons for first launching Cask Club – we wanted to offer an exciting new range of innovative cask beers incorporating modern styles and flavours, while also celebrating some seasonal classics.
How did you come up with the recipe for this year’s first Cask Club beer, Maverick?
I was keen to brew a light, refreshing cask beer, and this combination of hops and malt seemed like the perfect combination! At 3.4% ABV, it was important that we were able to retain a good level of body to the beer, and also get that delicious fresh hop aroma and flavour.
What malts have gone into Maverick, and why?
I’ve used standard Ale malt, Crystal malt and Caramalt which give a pale golden colour. There are also some oats in Maverick, which give the beer a slightly ‘silky’ mouthfeel.
What hops does this contain, and why did you choose them?
I chose US Centennial hops in the brewhouse, with new English varieties Olicana and Jester hops, plus Ernest, for Dry Hopping. I wanted to try the new English varieties to see what flavours and aromas they would deliver when combined together – and I am pleased with the result!
Did you experience any challenges with the beer?
It can be tricky to produce a 3.4% cask ale and maintain the fullness or body, so it was somewhat of an experiment! As with all of our new Cask Club beers, we usually learn a few things from the first brew. But I am delighted with how Maverick has come out - we have produced a really pleasant, drinkable, light beer!
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love developing new beers and then seeing them prove popular with drinkers, which is why I’m really enjoying being involved with this year’s Cask Club. It offers our brewers the opportunity to be creative and try something new! Shepherd Neame may be Britain’s oldest brewer, but we are constantly looking for new ways to use that extensive brewing knowledge to innovate and delight.
To encourage drinkers to enjoy its new Cask Club range, Shepherd Neame is offering an exclusive 20% discount for CAMRA members on the beers when a valid CAMRA card is presented at the bar. It has also just launched its Cask Club Passport for 2023, offering the chance to earn free pints of cask ale and an exclusive t-shirt, along with the opportunity to be entered into a prize draw for a weekend getaway.
To find out more and sign up to the Shepherd Neame Cask Club, visit snea.me/joincaskclub, and follow @shepherdneame on social media.