Showing posts with label shepherd neame. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shepherd neame. Show all posts

Monday, March 12, 2012


5 beers that made me think differently about beer:

Bishop's Finger, the beer that got me started.

O'Hara's Stout - still my favourite stout, decent on nitro, a dream bottled.

Kout's 18 degree dark lager - the perfect end to many a session in Prague, dark lager is not just for the ladies you know!

Schlenkerla Marzen.....mmmmm rauchbier

Devils Backbone Trukker Ur-Pils, Americans can, and do, make good pilsners, it's just difficult to find them sometimes.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Brewer of the Week

For the 400th post on Fuggled, I decided to go almost back to the beginning for my Brewer of the Week, to the makers of the beer that got me into properly made beer, and the beer that even today is still one of my favourites. The beer was Bishop's Finger from Shepherd Neame in Faversham, Kent.

Name: Stewart Main
Brewery: Shepherd Neame

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I was born and bred in Edinburgh, which, in its time was one of the main Brewing centers in Britain. There were 18 breweries in the city in the 1940/50s, so the industry was a fairly large employer, indeed my father, mother, both grandfathers and various uncles worked in the brewing industry. I started at Drybroughs Brewery in Craigmillar in January 1973 in Quality Control . I did an HNC Biology then a BSc in Brewing at Heriot Watt University and over the years gained experience in every department . Did my Master Brewer examinations during my time at Drybroughs and moved south to Burtonwood Brewery in Warrington in 1986. Hook Norton Brewery followed and now I am happily brewing at Shepherd Neame .

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

A number of skills are needed to make a “complete “ Brewer . A complete understanding of the science behind what is happening in the mash tun , copper and fermentation vessels, so that the effect of time, and temperature means something to you, otherwise you cannot control the process. Microbiological understanding and therefore the importance of hygiene is paramount. Good interpersonal skills and man–management ability is key to building a strong team around you. The love of the product comes near the top of the list!

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

Never did any home brewing, although I remember my father having a go when I was young. Plastic dust bins in the lounge etc. I never encourage home brewing. Far rather people went out to the pub, drink my beer and keep me in a job!.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

Over the last couple of years I have started to make my own liqueurs. Bramble Gin, Sloe Gin, Coffee, Orange, Lemon and Galliano . Always looking for something new. Make very acceptable Christmas presents.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

Spitfire is a favourite. The aroma in the Brewhouse as the combination of pale and roasted malts mixes with our pure well water in the mash tun is amazing. The fact that the tun is made of oak and of 1914 vintage and we are Britains oldest brewer always makes it special and actually makes me feel quite honoured and proud.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

This is easy. Burtonwood Dark Mild will always be my favourite. A classic dark Northern mild, only 3.0% abv but packed full of fantastic roast, black malt flavours. It had a good bitterness for a cask and was not sweet. Happy memories of a fine cask ale, sadly no longer brewed. The first brew I ever put through our Pilot Brewery was based on this beer, it was called Old Faversham Dark and I continue to brew it from time to time. Now a favourite in the South!

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to

A great, naturally conditioned bottled beer, 1698. 6.5% abv packed full of fruity, malty, flavours. The higher alcohol just fills it with character. Goes fantastic with, strong, mature, cheddar cheese.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

I create a lot of new beers both in the Main and Pilot Brewery and I really believe that using the best malts and hops produces quality beers. There are a huge range of malts and hops to choose from, you are only limited by your own imagination. I do believe in telling people what malts and hops go into the brew, it makes the drinking far more pleasurable.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

It could never happen, but I would have loved to have brewed with Campbell, Hope and King in Edinburgh. My grandfather was a Cooper there, and my father and uncle also. It was right next door to Heriot Watt University in the heart of the city. A truly traditional old Brewery now sadly no more. Closed in the 1960s by Whitbread. Over the last few years I have collaborated with quite a few American brewers, brewing their beers here at Faversham for the Wetherspoons cask beer festival. American IPA type beers and others more English in style.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Have never wished I had invented anybody elses beer. Over nearly 40yrs in brewing I have created very many beers and am proud of them all. Each has its own special place in my memory.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Amber and Dark Ales

This category is something of a catch all for those beers which don't really fit in the world of Pale Ale or in Stouts and Porters, and as such the beers presented here are all rather different from each other,

Without further ado then, the three contenders for Amber and Dark Ale of the Year are as follows:
I guess some would claim that the Henley Amber belonged in the Pale Ale category, but as it is a shade or two more red than most pale ales I chucked it into this category. To my mind, the work Jeff is doing at Lovibond's is as impressive as the likes of BrewDog. Sure he doesn't engage in strange marketing practices, but boy does he know how to make a great range of beers. Henley Amber is crisp, refreshing and with a long, lingering finish it is one of the best sessions beers I have had this year.

Hobgoblin is one of those beers that I simply adore and will drink whenever I have the opportunity, whether on cask or from the bottle, I am always left satisfied by the toffee sweetness and the smooth drinking of this wonderful beer. Best of all, it was readily available in Prague when I was there, and many a bottle shop in this neck of the woods have it as well. You really can't go wrong with Hobgoblin.

The beer that turned my head to traditionally crafted ales, Bishop's Finger is everything a strong English ale should be, full of Kentish hops, caramel flavours in the background and obscenely easy to drink - you are probably seeing a theme here, I like beers that are easy to drink rather than "extreme" beers which I tend to think of as "pivni penis envy" (pivni is the adjectival form of "beer" in Czech). Whenever I have a bottle of Bishop's Finger I wish I was sat in the beer garden of a Shepherd Neame pub near my brother's place in Ashford, listening to the test match and idling away the day.

Anyway, back to the cold reality of Charlottesville in December and expecting over a foot of snow today. The Fuggled Amber and Dark Ale of the Year is:
  1. Lovibond's Henley Amber
As I said earlier, drinkability is one of my big watch words when it comes to choosing beers to rave about, and Henley Amber is precisely that, a beer you could spend all evening downing with mates in the pub and then walk home. The good people of Henley-on-Thames are very lucky to have such a fantastic brewer on their doorstep and should acquaint themselves with Jeff's wears as soon as possible.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Day in the Bay

I have mentioned many times here that I am an avid Liverpool fan and although I get along to the pub to watch most games in a season the sport I love watching most is rugby. The highlight of the sporting year for me is the Calcutta Cup match between Scotland and our arch-enemy England during the 6 Nations. This weekend saw a raft of international rugby test matches, most notably Scotland against the world champions South Africa and Ireland up against New Zealand. Originally I had wanted to try and get tickets for the Ireland game at Croke Park, but unless you are a member of an IRFU affiliated club then the chances of getting a ticket are slimmer than Kate Moss on a diet.

We spent Saturday in Galway, a town I had wanted to visit very much and so when our friends suggested that we spend the Saturday there I leapt for joy. On discovering that they also like rugby I knew it was going to be a fine day out, and so it was. While the ladies strolled around the shopping centre, the men wandered off to find a pub – a very difficult chore as I am sure you can imagine. On William Street we popped into a place called Garavan’s to wait for our women folk, and as chance would have it, we caught the last 20 minutes of Liverpool’s win over Bolton Wanderers. Here I had my first Guinness in Ireland, and although it was too cold it was certainly a step up from every Guinness I have ever had anywhere else. With the game over and the ladies out of the shops we went in search of somewhere for lunch, that somewhere was the King’s Head.

According to a plaque in the pub the King’s Head was given to the executioner of King Charles I by a grateful Parliament. This cavernous pub was very nice as was the lunch we had there, one of my three seafood and chip themed meals over the weekend, we also watched Scotland throw away a 10 point half-time advantage to lose 10-14 to the Springboks. We decided to move on to a different place to watch Ireland’s game with the All Blacks, and find a place that served Galway Hooker. Following a tip from a barman in a random pub on Shop Street we ended up in Sheridan’s On The Docks – a place which from the outside looks like a poncey winebar.

I am not sure I could have actually been further from the truth, the turf fire blazing away when we entered and the sight of a Galway Hooker tap on the bar convinced us to stay here - the nice space around the medium sized tv for watching the rugby may also have played a part, so we settled in for the evening. I went to the bar, ordered a couple of pints of Galway Hooker, the ladies had found more shopping to do, and almost fainted with joy when I saw the list of bottled beers; Bishop's Finger, Spitfire, Fuller's ESB and advertised as their "Beer of the Week" Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of Galway Hooker, partly because while having my first pint Mrs Velkyal was taking pictures of the docks, however this beer is seered into my memory, it is good stuff! The beer is golden bordering on amber and had a nice looking white head - none of your "all the way to the top" silliness in Ireland thank god, and the nose was very citrusy, very hoppy and really got me salivating, and it was worth every mouthful! Hoppy, refreshing, clean, crisp, moorish are the best words to describe this beer, and I think 4 mouthfuls later all that slighty malty lovely goodness was gone. Yum, yum, yum - better have another one just in case, still no camera mind - how do lady folk find random knitware shops in which to splash their cash?

I have described elsewhere my love affair with , so that was naturally up next, followed by it's stablemate, Spitfire - another beer that I like very much from the bottle, though I am not a fan of Spitfire Smooth (if I want something smooth I will buy a milkshake).

When trying to decide what came next I admit that I sent Evan Rail a text message asking if the
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was worth forking out €6 for (in my defence your honour, I had never had a Sierra Nevada beer and wanted professional guidance), suitably assured it was next up. What a magnificent beer it is! I am sure many far more qualified people than I have waxed lyrical about it, but I really enjoyed this one. With a refreshing hoppiness that has a rather subtle sweetness underpining it, this is a very easy beer to drink and one which when Mrs Velkyal and I are encamped the US will no doubt be a regular in the cellar. Admittedly I didn't take any detailed notes, because by this point it was half time and the referee had awarded a penalty try to the All Blacks, making the score 3-10 going into the break.

As the second half got under way I opted for the . Again an excellent beer, big and bold in the hops and malt department with a large dollop of toffee sweetness. One thing I noticed in particular was the smoothness of the beer, which makes it more of a beer for taking your time over. By the end of the second 40 minutes, Ireland had been clinically dismissed 3-22 and I had stoked up a nice warming glow from the wonderful beers on offer.

And so we headed back to Westmeath in the rain, just in time to hit the local pub for few more pints and some darts to finish off the day.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Session #21 - What is your favourite Beer and Why?

The very word “favourite” is so nebulous, so transitory and so subject to whim that to address a question such as “what is your favourite beer?” is like asking which breath in the last 33 years was the best? Like the vast majority of beer drinkers there are times when I only drink a particular style of beer, whether through design or availability. There are beer styles that I love, such as Alt, which seem to combine the drinkability of lager with the flavours of ale. I guess though the beer I would choose as my favourite is the one that has the same effect on me as the ratatouille Remy places in front of Anton Ego – yes I love Pixar movies – though obviously when I fell off my bike my mother didn’t give me a pint of ale to sooth my ills.

My favourite beer is very much like my best friend, I very rarely get to see him – seeing as though he is the American Consul to Kazakhstan, my friend that is, not the beer. It is very rare that I get to enjoy my favourite beer, simply because it is very difficult to get British ales in the Czech Republic. This beer, as well as being my favourite, is also the beer that opened my eyes to the delights of good beer, rather than throwing pint after pint of megaswill down my throat. That beer was Shepherd Neame’s Bishop’s Finger.

Bishop’s Finger was the first cask conditioned ale I ever drank, or at least that I remember drinking, sitting in a village pub in Kent with my eldest brother. A friend who I met in Prague used to work for Shepherd Neame and recommended that when I got back to the UK I should hunt out Bishop’s Finger – so it was all Mike the Hat’s fault, even though it was some 2 years after he had left Prague that I actually got back to the UK. Whenever I have a bottle of Bishop’s Finger these days I am taken back to the pub garden on a sunny July day in Kent.

I love the colour of Bishop’s Finger, deep copper, almost red crowned with a white head, forgive me if I become pompous and wax lyrical – after all this is my favourite beer! The nose tells you that this is a strong ale, full of malt and with just a tinge of the alcoholic delights to come. The beer tastes rather fruity, almost bittersweet like blood oranges that have zing and this being a Kentish beer, the hops are very noticeable in the finish. The beer is big and bold, yet smooth and easy to drink, with flavours that blew my mind when I first tried it all those years ago.

This month's Session is hosted by Matt at A World of Brews.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

My life in beer

This is entirely the product of a completely random thought - would it be possible to trace the breweries which are local to my family and the life I have led so far, and more to the point I should make an effort to try at least (key phrase there) one beer from each of them. So here goes:

My dad is from Chiswick - making his local brewer the wonderful Fullers, which is ironic in a way as they have long been a favourite of mine.

My mother is from Fraserburgh in the north of Scotland, home to Brew Dog Beer.

My eldest brother lives in Kent, home of great hops, and of course Shepherd Neame.

My elder brother lives in Bicester, near Oxford and not too far from the Hook Norton Brewery - one of the few remaining tower breweries in the UK.

My wee brother lives in Alness, in the far north of Scotland, and just up the road from the Black Isle Brewery.

My wife is from South Carolina, the first Confederate state to secede from the Union and where you will find Thomas Creek beers.

I spent about 6 years in total living in Celle in the north of Germany - the delights of being an Army brat - the local brewer there is Brauerei Carl Betz, whose wares I will be enjoying at Easter when I visit Celle for the first time in over 20 years

I spent most of my childhood in the Hebrides, and there you will find the Isle of Skye Brewing Company.

At university in Birmingham I knew no better so I drank Caffrey's mostly, in various O'Neill's pubs - usually on Broad Street.

Most of my adult life has been in Prague........I guess this is what the blog is about at the moment.

The drink that changed my relationship to beer?


Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...