02 March 2008

The difference is clear

'Ere, Bea Nat. Ah cam you ain't tokt abaht enny Inglish bea in ayjis? Sowt it ahht.

Thank-you, Mr Van Dyke, you're quite right that I have been neglecting the folks next door lately and it's time I rectified that. Shepherd Neame Master Brew is new to these shores, and I humbly present my appraisal.

Wherever Irish beer fanatics gather, someone will usually point out the craziness of Kent brewer Shepherd Neame and their clear glass bottles. Opinion then divides over whether their beers are any good or not. I tend to find that they're a mixed bunch and am never quite sure what I'm going to get when trying a new one. My guess on the clear glass is that it's an attempt to recreate the visual experience of a freshly-poured pint of ale to customers in the aisles of supermarkets. It's a daft strategy and it leads to lightstruck beer.

This bottle was no exception: a distinct skunky whiff, mixed with sugar, came up as it poured to a lovely thick and lasting head. The colour is an attractive red-gold, but you have to get that right or the clear glass is in vain. The flavour is mild and smoky, with a tannic bitterness followed by some sugar notes right at the very end. I found it quite dull to begin with, probably because I was drinking it too cold, but it got better and more complex as it went along.

It's not a world-changing beer, and not even as interesting as the bigger Neame flagships like Bishop's Finger and 1698. Instead, with an alcohol by volume of 4%, and even less in cask form, it's probably highly enjoyable to charge through a few pints. Not one for considered sipping, but a decent beer nonetheless.

There. Sorted.


  1. Anonymous10:52 am

    We need more Dick Van Dyke beer reviews!

    I have to confess I'm not a fan of Shepherds Neame but when one came on at my local I had to try it to see if it was any better than the bottle. I believe it was Bishops Finger and it did taste better than the bottled version however it still didn't do a great deal for me.

  2. Shepherd Neame ideally need to be tested in the cask form, as their distinctive flavour can't be matched by pasturised bottles. However, it's very much a debate if this distinctive flavour is actually any good!

  3. Yeah, but if I was trying to be objective I'd never write anything at all.

    Besides which, I'm sure the brewers aren't too precious about the ideal serving conditions for their beers, otherwise they wouldn't be exporting them (in clear glass) to The Lands Beyond Cask.

  4. Your verdict pretty much gels with what I found when I reviewed it sometime ago.