Tag Archive: Shepherd Neame

Shepherd Neame: 1698 (England: English Strong Ale: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear caramel brown. Fizzy white head of moderate size but does not last long. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Light toffee. Light black cherry. Light chalk.

Body: Christmas cake. Light chalk. Odd mix of thin and chewy mouthfeel. Light liquorice. Brown bread. Slight sulphur. Walnuts.

Finish: Light chalk. Light liquorice. Brown bread. Christmas cake. Almonds. Slightly earthy. Greenery and sage. Dry marzipan.

Conclusion: I don’t know if the time in the bottle hurt it rather than helped it, despite this being bottle conditioned, but when I first took a sip of this it felt like something there wasn’t working. It felt a bit light up front. Now it was close to working, there was subtle toffee and black-cherry in the aroma, which is a good standby of an English Strong Ale, but those elements didn’t follow through into the body.

The body instead calls to Christmas cake, but with a savoury walnut like backing before heading out into an earthy and even more obviously nutty finish. Which all seems pretty appropriate as this was first bought at Christmas and – well Christmas cake is pretty obviously appropriate to that, and I can just about wedge the nuttiness in under that to claim there is some sort of thematic consistency going on here. Probably.

It feels light early on, which is a fair flaw – occasionally showing the weight this beer needs, but it was disappointing. As time goes on the layers seem to build up so it feels a lot more present at the end, which makes it much more satisfying. As said at the start, initially this felt like the time in the bottle had hurt rather than helped it, and it was very much that early lack of weight that was the most obvious tell of that.

So, how is it when it has had some time to build up that flavour and weight? Well now it is very nutty, which is ok but I do feel disappointed that the Black Cherry and the Christmas cake notes seem to have fallen by the wayside as they could really have done with some more play. In return there has been an increase in savoury greenery and earthy hop bitterness which does the job at rounding it out.

Overall, takes a while to get going, but solid when it does – nutty, earthy and very present. Not shiny and exciting but a solid enough beer to spend time with.

Background: This beer has had quite the journey to get to these tasting notes. It was originally grabbed by my family for when I was going to head up last Christmas. Anyway, so covid was everywhere, so I never went up north, but since my family don’t drink this style of beer they kept it until we could finally meet up. Many thanks! So, this is now fairly close to its best before date of November 2011, but as it is bottle conditioned hopefully that should not be an issue, or may even make it better. We shall see. Went with Garbage V 2.0 as backing music, because that album is a classic and thus should be listened to regularly.

Shepherd Neame: Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference: London Porter (England: Porter: 5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Creamy inch of mounded brown froth.

Nose: Grated chocolate. Brown bread. Milky coffee.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Lightly earthy. Milky chocolate. Slight chalky texture. Bitter coffee.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Earthy bitterness. Turmeric. Slightly chalky. Coffee cake. Light vanilla. Peppery.

Conclusion: We have been discussing (well, more correctly I have been monologuing about) earthy bitters recently. While doing so it is easy to overlook that, with the mass of easily available earthy hops in the UK, the earthy beer take has turned up in quite a range of styles over here.

This is a moderately earthy porter, though not dominated by that fact. The standard bitter chocolate and coffee notes you would expect of a porter are also there. However it is a lot more grounded than a lot of porters, with an earthy and peppery finish giving it a very savoury lead out. Also it gives it a bit more of a robust texture, rather than the smooth porter style it has a slight chalky texture and a rougher, but not unpleasant feel.

Over time the earthiness does become more present though – not a bad thing for the most part to my mind, but your mileage may vary. This has a lot of notes that I would associate with a more traditional bitter than a lot of porters, and that may not be up everyone’s alley. Apart from that it pretty much does the standard porter thing. I think if this was a cask real ale I would be giving it more time, the texture feels like it would slip into a cask beer nicely.

So, pretty simple for a porter but not badly done – the earthiness could be better used – early on the balance between it and the normal porter notes make it interesting, they grow and, while working for most of the beer, by the end it still isn’t bad but the earthiness does end up dominating and doesn’t let the porter notes flow well.

So, ok, but I would be interested to see what a more polished earthy porter would end up being like.

Background: This was a Christmas gift from my mate Tony – many thanks. Shepherd Neame used to do their own beer called Original Porter which I thought was the same as this one – looking up online though their version seemed to be 4.8% abv or 5.2% abv depending on when it was brewed, so this must have at least a slightly different recipe. Broke out the porter designed craft beer glass for this. Don’t know really if it makes a difference but it is fun.

Shepherd Neame: Late Red (England: ESB: 4.5%)

Visual: Burnished bronze red, reasonable lasting inch of a head that simmers down into a bubbly froth.

Nose: Caramel and treacle, hops and raspberries. Some fireside ash.

Body: Toffee, quite fizzy feel. Bitter hops. Fairly empty on the main body. Slight burnt ash. Occasional fruit, but its hard to make out.

Finish: Treacle and charcoal.

Conclusion: This bottle version is significantly worse than its equivalent on tap. Fizzier and that overwhelms the light fruit flavours found within.

Whilst the tap version I would recommend, this one I can not – its too fizzy and somewhat artificial feeling.

Bit of a pity, I was looking forwards to doing tasting notes on this one.

Too weak, too artificial tasting, with a nasty burnt element at the end.

Good thing it won’t be released again until the end of the year.

Shepherd Neame: Christmas Ale 2009 (England: Strong Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: A light clear metallic red with a bubbly but not overly substantial head.

Nose: Sherry spice, cloves, white grapes. A light smooth hop character, wood shavings.

Body: Rich warming and spicy, plums and red berries. Sweet, very syrupy and a fizzy sherbet feel. Black treacle occasionally.

Finish: Raspberry, sherry, slight roasted almonds. Hint of nutmeg and sponge. Slowly eases out to light fluffy hops.

Conclusion: I always love the arrival of Christmas beers; it’s pretty much the only thing that redeems the festive season.

This slightly spiced, warming and fruity ale is typical for the style and done pretty well. Lovely fruit sweet body and a very long finish. With the addition of the bitter core it hits a lot of right notes.

The beer is somewhat over syrupy which hits the quality the second half of a pint, and reduces the subtlety of the ale, which keeps it from the top end of the market. However whilst it is not innovative it is well worth drinking.

Now I wouldn’t go out and crucify a hippy to get to drink it twice a year but I will enjoy it while it is around, and heck you wont regret doing so as well.

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