I’ve explored a number of different styles of beer recently for The Brewclub that claim to be variations of ‘IPA’ , after decades in the doldrums (did you see what I did there?) IPA has once again become an essential brew in any brewery’s repertoire. The blend of (usually pale) malts and rich hoppiness seem to offer an irresistible challenge for any brewer.
And, to be honest, Shepherd Neame are not just ‘any brewer’, they claim to be Britain’s oldest brewer, having brewed continually from their base in Faversham, Kent since 1698.
Trueman’s brewery in London has recently been resurrected and in turn claims its beers have been ‘Brewed in London since 1666′. I would, however, suggest that claim to be as specious as 2013′s ‘Fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who’ that is, providing you overlook a fifteen year hiatus. Like Doctor Who, Trueman’s vanished between 1989 and 2010, although in July 2013, a trip to Britain’s National Collection of Yeast Cultures (no, me neither) allowed the resurrected brewery access to Trueman’s original yeast strain, which had been kept, since 1958, stored at -19°c.
I’ll return Trueman’s beers at a later date, in the meantime, back to Shepherd Neame, I’ve reviewed ‘Sheps’ beers for The Brewclub in the past, here and here, I’m fortunate that my local pub stocks their beers, as that’s a rarity here in Essex.
This IPA is one of a new ‘classic’ range of beers from Shepherd Neame, brewed to recipes deciphered from coded 19th century brewers’ logs. Having deciphered the logs (written in code to avoid industrial espionage), John Owen - the brewery’s archivist and historian worked with the brewery’s master brewers to resurrect these lost brews.
Shepherd Neame’s IPA pours a rich dark apricot colour, with a rich, foaming white head. The nose is hoppy, ‘old school’ hops, Faversham being in the heart of England’s traditional hop growing country. The ‘retro’ label builds on this, claiming to use ‘locally grown Fuggles hops’, and Fuggles are undeniably ‘old school’ having first been introduced back in 1875. There are East Goldings hops in there are well, but it’s Fuggles to the fore.
The flavour is initially metallic, but not unpleasant, with hints of caramel and biscuit underneath the hops. I can imagine that this brew, unlike many that bear the IPA moniker, might actually be recognisable, as an IPA, to a Victorian trooper on the North West Frontier.
It’s medium to full bodied, and frankly dangerous, there’s little to suggest that there’s 6.1% alcohol lurking in there.
I’ve been disappointed with Shepherd Neame’s brews of late, their attempts to brew ‘modern’ beers have been, at times, woeful – with the exception of the ‘Blonde Ambition’ that they brew on behalf of Samuel Adams. ‘Blonde Ambition’ is a great summer session beer that goes against all my ‘brewed under licence’ prejudices.
By going back to their roots, much as Adnams have with their ‘Jack Brand – Innovation‘, ‘Sheps’ have revived a winner.
Using The Brewclub’s patented scoring system this is a beer “that does what it sets out to, and does it well” and as such, because it does it so well, I’ll rate this 4 stars.