Posts Tagged ‘shepherd neame


Prayag’s Beer Review: Master Brew


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.

master brew stubbyOur 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.master brew pour


Prayag’s Beer Review: Whitstable Bay Organic Ale


Another number from the Shepherd Neame stable. Whitstable Bay Organic Ale. 4.5% ABV.

Under normal circumstances, meaning circumstances  in which there are enough decent beers around to drink when I decide to drink beer, I would not be caught dead drinking anything with the word ‘organic’ in it. I have my hang-ups. This is not a good thing, I know, and I know this after having drunk a pint of Whitstable Bay Organic Ale.
Organic Ale is cousin to two other ‘Whitstable Bay’ properties of Shepherd Neame’s, the Whitstable Bay Blonde Premium Lager and the Whitstable Bay Pale Ale. I haven’t had either, but after Organic Ale I’d try them in a shot.ready for battle

Whitstable Bay is a fishing village in the town of Kent, one those quaint places shrouded in locally revered history, I assume. By now, you’d know what the deal is with how Shepherd Neame names its brews. I haven’t read much about Whitstable Bay and the connection it shares with the three beers earlier mentioned. I don’t give a fuck, really. It’s been a hard day. I’ll leave it in the comments later.the missing velan

Organic Ale is a nice beer to look at. Pours with a reasonable, extremely short lived head. There’s a lot of orange going on, in the beer and on the label. My mind immediately assumes a citrusy flavor, which is confirmed at first swig. There’s a very apples, oranges and even mosambi kind of tanginess to this – like the ‘Maara Maari’ fruit juice at Amar Juice Center, if you’ve ever tried it – underlined by a complimentary note of sweet bread, and some nutty maltiness every now and then. It smells sour, and grassy, but that distinct hoppiness is absent on the tongue. There’s nothing much else going on, but there’s not much else needed. It’s not a kaleidoscope of flavours, or anything like that. If anything, I think you’d find that the citrus only gets bitter after swilling a few mouthfuls, but then, alcohol is a bitter affair. Here’s a drink so wholly complete in its one-dimensionality, it’s actually good. Not great. But good enough to want to drink on a mindnumbingly hot day. It’s a straightforward, uncomplicated beer. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If it were any cheaper, I’d probably drink this again.
Rating: 2.5/5


Prayag’s Beer Review: Spitfire


Today’s beer: Shepherd Neame’s Spitfire. Premium Kentish ale. 4.5% ABV.

When I was a little boy, I wanted like many other little boys to be a pilot. In point of fact, I’ve developed an irrational reluctance to fly over the years. Maybe it’s the war movies and Commando comics I was into as a kid, or maybe it’s the basic spitfire ale pourfear of death, but I’m not getting into an airplane anytime soon. I still love a good aviation film, though, and the only thing I’d rather do more than watch a vintage fighter-plane blow shit up is drink a beer named after one. Here’s where the Spitfire comes in.

I love how the guys at Shepherd Neame need a really good reason to brew a new product, as if the global market of drinkers, alcoholics and arrogant reviewers wasn’t enough. Spitfire, the ale, is named after the RJ Mitchell-designed Supermarine Spitfire, which, as any petrolhead worth their motor oil would know, was pretty much the aircraft of the Royal Air Force during World War II. The beer was first brewed in 1990, to celebrate fifty years since the Battle of Britain. I now suggest you Google this stuff and catch up on your reading, because I don’t have the patience to write you a history lesson.

spitfire beerI wasn’t originally too impressed with Shepherd Neame, but over the course of four different beers my opinion of this brewery has changed enough to admit that they can brew a good fucking beer. The Spitfire is a good fucking beer, no doubt about it. It’s a light drink, and smells pleasantly fruity with a good dose of hops, but isn’t too bitter on the nose or the tongue. The taste lives somewhere in the area of roasted, nutty fruitiness, or fruity, roasted nuttiness, or you-get-my-fucking-point, and ends on a rather spicy note, which fits because I read that there’s a ton of pepper in this brew. While the colouration isn’t out of the ordinary, and it doesn’t pour with much of a head, I still say it’s an interesting drink. It wouldn’t hold up against most of the other ales I’ve had, but I haven’t been drinking for a while now, which makes this stuff damn good, at least to me.

Rating: 3/5

Read what Prayag has to say about the other Shepherd Neame beers he’s had:

Bishops Finger | Double Stout | 1698

Also check out the last two beer reviews I wrote: Kronenbourg 1664 | Canterbury Jack


Beer Review: Shepherd Neame’s Bishops Finger


Bishops Finger is:

1)  A signpost in Kent, once serving to point Christian pilgrims
toward the tomb of Saint Thomas of Canterbury.

2) A Kentish beer named after said signpost.

3) A really kinky sex move, according to Urban Dictionary.

bishops finger bottle

The sex move sounds disgusting. The beer I like. It’s the third beer
I’ve sampled from Britain’s oldest brewery – Shepherd Neame – and as
seems to be the case with all of Shepherd Neame’s beers, Bishops
Finger has historical significance. It was first brewed in the year
that malt rationing came to an end in Britain, because heck, more
malts! A resultantly strong brew, it fills your mouth with that
lovely, full bodied, toasted, caremelly maltiness. Not overpoweringly,
but the right amount. My nose detects it as more in the bitter
direction of fruity, which comes from the hops. And there’s a lot of
hops, mind you, which makes this stuff bitter as hell. If the only
beer you’re used to drinking comes out of a can labelled Kingfisher or
Budweiser or Foster’s, you’d rather stick to a more moderately
flavoured lager than this strong British ale. If you’re a writer
though, you’ll love the bitterness. Ha ha, joke. But really, it’s a
characterful kind of bitter, giving way to a mellow fruitiness which
comes from where I’m not too sure, but there’s a distinct sourness
going on which suggests some citrusy ingredients. It’s also a good
beer to look at, with it’s almost bourbon like colouration and
headstrong nature outside the bottle. I washed this down with a half
tablespoon of orange marmalade; the good, not-too-sweet kind of
marmalade with plenty of little bits of orange peel. Great fucking

bishops fingerEven with that ridiculously purple label, Bishops Finger is a good,
strong, satisfying drink. Best drunk with a beard on your face.


Beer Review: Shepherd Neame’s 1698


I have in front of me a bottle of Shepherd Neame’s ‘1698’. It is a rather nice looking bottle, and a nice looking beer, too, pouring a lovely dark caramel with a thin, creamy head that doesn’t hang around for too long but clings to the glass for as long as it does.

With an ABV ratio of 6.5%, it’s a beer to drink when you want to get drunk on beer, and not in a Haywards 5000 kind of way. Shepherd Neame is Britain’s oldest brewery, with a chronology that officially dates back to 1698, and unofficially extends even beyond that year.

This particular beer was first brewed in 1998, to celebrate the 300th birthday of Shepherd Neame. In the fifteen years since, 1698 has acquired not only Protected Geographical Identification (akin to Champagne, Parma ham, Cognac and several awesome cheeses of the European Union), but has also made it to the International Beer Challenge’s World’s Top Fifty Beers list, automatically deeming it a beer I’d want to drink, and I drank it, and it is good, and I am happy.shepherd-neame-16981698 is also a bottle conditioned beer, meaning that instead of carbonating the beer artificially, the guys at Shepherd Neame decided instead to throw some yeast into the bottle, thus allowing the beer to carbonate naturally after bottling. It also means that, like wine, the brew will continue to age ferment while it sits waiting for you on the shelves of a decent liquor store. Let it settle for ten minutes, and look for a small amount of yeast sediment at the bottom of your glass.

The beer claims to be “thrice hopped”, and though it isn’t quite as hoppy as some other European beers I’ve had, the grassiness is apparent in both aroma and taste, countered with some bitter fruitiness on the tongue and a slightly spicy finish that eventually settles at the back of your throat and creeps its way into your breath. It smells strongly of roasted malts, with a slight sweetness that isn’t quite as apparent in the taste, probably due to the heat of the alcohol. Might be a bit sharp for some, but will go down your throat well if you love a stiff drink with layered flavours.

1698 isn’t the best beer I’ve had, but it’s got character. It’s history in a bottle that you can buy for a few hundred bucks and get drunk on. Do it.

Rating: 3/5


Beer Review: Canterbury Jack


canterbury jackMy introduction to Shepherd Neame happens to be an English pale ale, and it is alive with hoppiness. The fruity hops make this very different from other EPAs I’ve tried; Canterbury Jack is a zesty, refreshing beer. The drink is mildly bitter and very light on the tongue. Halfway through the bottle I understand that the bitter hops of this beer linger on the taste buds for quite some time. With nothing complex going on with the flavour, and with another six beers from Shepherd Neame to drink, I say Canterbury Jack isn’t mind-blowing, but worth sipping on anyway.

RATING: 3.5/5

canterbury jack 2


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