Generation Ale – Shepherd Neame

There’s always a sense of anticipation I feel when a brewery has taken the time to tissue wrap and seal a beer, it shows they are proud of their creation and want to present to their customers in tip-top condition.

When they go a step further and encase it in a wooden box, complete with clasp and seal it yet again, you’d hope for the moon on a stick moment when you finally get it to the glass, luckily this one delivers.

Generation Ale is the brainchild of Stewart Main, Senior Brewer at Shepherd Neame. It was brewed just over 12 months ago using a blend of five malts and five Kentish hops in celebration of the fifth generation of the Neame family to own the business. It has then been matured at the brewery for twelve months before being bottled, wrapped and sealed into it’s wooden case, there to lie in wait until the next lucky drinker comes along to release it in all it’s glory.

So what of the beer out of the bottle I hear you impatiently cry?

Well the crown cap fizzes with the escape of light carbonation as it’s cracked. Generation Ale, free at last from its wooden casket, careful sealed tissue wrap and dark brown embossed glass bottle pours silky smooth into the glass, settling in the colour revealed as a dark ruby brown topped with thin open head.

The first smells are of light burnt toffee, stewed winter fruits with an underpinning of booziness, this is a little too cool though and may develop. The first taste, it’s fresh and light with a pleasant amount of carbonation, the flavours are fruity, a sort of candied fruitiness dancing across the taste buds.

It’s warming now and developing with each sip, that fruit is pears maybe caramelised pears with hints of creamy chocolate. Quite out of nowhere there is a really powerful black pepper note, lots of pepper developing in aroma too with heady sweet pears in the beginning fading fast as the pepper builds.

The beer begins lightly carbonated when first poured but that quickly drops away in the glass leaving a full on mouth coating feel that turns almost brandy like as the glass warms it in the palm of your hand. Once downed it leaves a bitter black liquorice aftertaste with a warming alcohol burn that goes right down the throat into your belly, that bitterness is long-lasting and dwells on the tongue for a good while.

As you’ll see from the video later Stewart recommends pairing this with a nice creamy cheese, I opted for a Snowdonia Black Bomber extra mature cheddar. It has a strong cheddar bite but is really creamy in the mouth too which went wonderfully well with the ale.

I’d love to have a another bottle or two to hide away for a few years to see how the flavours  develop, they are really complex now and change often as you drink your way through the 750ml bottle. I’m not sure if that is something in the pipeline for Shepherd Neame as this was a beer designed for a specific occasion, but I’d love to see this develop into a range not dissimilar to Fullers Vintage Ales.

To close I’ve attached a video link to a review recorded by Simon of The Real Ale Guide, he just happened to be visiting the brewery when Generation Ale was in progress.

In it he chats to brewer Stewart Main who explains the concept behind the beer and how he created it. Both get to taste the beer direct from the tank in its final stages of maturation, lucky blighters… 😉

As far as I know this the first review of the finished article ever so that’s quite exciting in itself as I’m sure it will not be the last. Cheers

British Guild Of Beer Writers Awards 2011, a brief recap..

On Thursday 1 December I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the annual awards dinner for the British Guild of Beer Writers down in that London. I hasten to add I was there as a guest at the table hosted by John Humphreys and Shepherd Neame Brewery and not as a member of the guild, or by virtue (directly at least) of anything I have written here on Beersay.

I’ve meant to write a quick post ever since but haven’t as things have been a bit crazy with work, Christmas and hosting The Session etc. Then I saw this video put together brilliantly by Nathan Nolan AKA @MrDrinknEat and my spark was re-kindled, it’s a great piece of film which captures the event perfectly in just a couple of minutes.

The Menu and beer pairings (apologies for the quality)

I did take a few photographs myself on the night but the lighting was very low and to be honest they are all pretty awful. I’ve dropped a few below though anyway, to give you a flavour of the great food I lucky enough to sample on the night. In all honesty it was probably the best food I’ve ever eaten anywhere, even the canapés beforehand were fantastic. The beers chosen to pair with them were awesome too. My particular favourite was the passion fruit cheesecake paired with Brewdog’s Alice Porter. The roasty notes of the porter really enhancing the biscuit base brilliantly.

Trying for once to keep this post short and sweet I’ll leave you with a few more photos.

But before that I just wanted to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to John and Shepherd Neame for inviting me and my table fellows. Also to everyone I met and shared a beer with on the night, I absolutely loved every minute of it. If there’s a space next year, count me in.

Seared albacore, white asparagus, shallot, mustard with soy dressing - Served with Kelham Island Brewery "Pale Rider"

Scallop and crab, mushroom soup dumplings - Served with Wadworth Brewery "Orange Peel"

baby chicken, foie gras mousse, cabbage, black pepper sauce and vegetable parcels - Served with Kernel Brewery "Pale Ale"

Passion fruit cheesecake with passion fruit marshmallow - Served with Brewdog "Alice Porter"

Something a little special as a gift from Shepherd Neame - Review to follow very soon…

Roll on the European Beer Bloggers Conference in Leeds May 2012.