By PRAYAG ARORA-DESAI
Several weeks ago I received a text message from Aditya Mehta saying “Six beers want to be reviewed by you”. Today I drank the last of those six beers, and so it is that my journey with Britain’s oldest brewery comes to an end – for now. Welcome to this; the concluding chapter of my boozy chronicle, in which I do what I do best. No prizes for guessing.
Our subject today is Shepherd Neame’s Master Brew – “The Local Hero” is what it says on the label. Of the six I’ve tried, this one seems to be the least traditionally inspired of Shepherd Neame’s beers. There are no tales of war and pilgrimage, no timeworn recipes, no antiquity by virtue of which you could hand this to a fellow drinker and say “Drink it for the context, motherfucker!” Judging by Shepherd Neame’s own standards, I’m a little disappointed at the history, or lack thereof, that underscores this particular brew.
As a drink, though, Master Brew is perfectly satisfying. It’s a gorgeous thing to look at, in its light amber colouring and foamy head, which sizzles as it rises to meet the rim of your glass. The aroma contains a distinct, hoppy crispness followed by a kaleidoscopic hit of malts, bread and rich toffee. These notes follow through on the palate in the same exact order, followed by an unsuspecting dash of citrus which leaves behind a bitterness akin to the typical English ale. The aftertaste will take a while to develop, and does not go well with toothpaste the next morning.
In the final analysis, Master Brew is as straightforward an English ale as I have drunk recently. It’s not pushing any boundaries, or developing any new flavours. Still, I salute the dudes over at Shepherd Neame; if not for anything else, then for at least being able to recreate the beauty of your staple English ale. It certainly counts for something in a world ruled by Kingfisher and Corona and Budweiser and all that other mediocre crap.