Monday, February 4, 2013
Spitfire Premium Kentish Ale – Shepherd Neame Limited– Faversham, Kent, United Kingdom
I’ve decided to take a short tour around the world…the world of beer that is. This past weekend, I decided to spend a few days with my family back in Montreal, Canada. And instead of bringing back my mother’s famous shepherd’s pie, I decided to bring back beer…lots of beer…all kinds of beer. So in the coming days, you can look forward to reviews of everything from English Ales to fine German Beers. Tonight, we start with the Battle of Britain, and the Spitfire Premium Kentish Ale. Let’s take a closer look at the brew.
Spitfire Premium Kentish Ale is the biggest ale success story of the last decade. Originally brewed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, its characteristically Kentish, hoppy flavor and risqué advertising campaign has made it a firm favorite with beer lovers.
Winner of a gold medal and Best Strong Cask-Conditioned Beer of the World at the Brewing Industry International Awards, Spitfire Ale is now Shepherd Neame's biggest-selling cask conditioned ale. Spitfire Ale has Protected Geographical Indication, the same regional produce protection afforded to Champagne and Parma Ham.
Regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme and former wine writer on the London Evening Standard, Andrew recently won the prestigious Glenfiddich Drink Writer of the Year, Wine Writer of the Year and the Glenfiddich Trophy for overall excellence – all three in the same year – an unprecedented achievement. At the same time, he won the Wine Book of the Year title at the Le Prix du Champagne Lanson.
"The glowing amber of this premium Kentish ale has wonderfully generous aromas of tangy malt, soft raisins and sweet oranges, freshened by the floral, grassy notes of three different Kent-grown hop varieties (flowery Target, tangy First Gold and orange-fragrant East Kent Goldings). In the mouth, the finely balanced flavour opens with a blast of rounded malt before the rousing, almost spicy hops follow through to provide a complex, multi-layered finish."
It was in 1678 that an important figure entered the brewery’s story when Richard Marsh leased it from Hilton's executors.
Marsh, in his capacity as mayor, held King James II as a prisoner after he ran aground off Faversham while attempting to flee to France to avoid William of Orange and his threatening Dutch army during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The monarch was confined at the brewery.
In 1698 Marsh bought the brewery from the executors of Thomas Hilton, thereby signaling the official start of the brewery's history.
He died in 1726 and the brewery passed to his second son, also called Richard, who died only a year later. His widow, Mary, married a Mr Hilles Hobday, who died in 1731. By this time the brewery owned two Faversham pubs, The Castle and The Three Tuns. The latter is still part of the brewery's pub estate.
1732 - 1800
Samuel Shepherd married Mary in 1732 and promptly took over the running of the brewery, introducing an era of growth. Shepherd led an important development for the brewery, which was the acquisition of 21 pubs, five of which remain with Shepherd Neame.
In 1755 Samuel retired to his Great Mongeham farm, near Deal, leaving the business in the hands of his sons, John and Julius.
In 1777 John withdrew from the business leaving Julius as the sole owner. He in turn took two of his sons, Samuel and Henry, into the partnership.
Julius demonstrated the same entrepreneurial flair of his father when he bought the brewery's first Sun and Planet steam engine in 1789, the work of Birmingham engineers and steam engine pioneers Boulton & Watt.
1800 - 1900
Shepherd and eventually Neame
His son Henry succeeded Julius in 1819. After 25 years with one man at the helm the brewery came under new leadership when Henry retired. It passed initially to Henry Jr and his son-in-law, Charles Jones Hilton, but Hilton withdrew only four years later and Henry Jr took on John Henry Mares as his partner.
In October 1864 Percy Beale Neame, a 28-year-old hop farmer and brother-in-law of John Mares, joined the firm as a partner, only two months before Mares' death. Shepherd Neame & Company was born.
In 1864 an important phase of development got under way with the building of a new brewhouse and stores and 10 years later the pubs estate had grown to nearly 100.
Henry Jr died in 1876, leaving Percy Neame the sole proprietor. His sons, Harry, Arthur and Alick about 20 years later, joined him.
1900 - 1939
Pre-Second World War
Percy Beale Neame died in 1913, after 49 years at the brewery and a year later, Shepherd Neame became a limited company, with all of Percy’s children as the shareholders.
Tragedy struck the family when, in 1916, Arthur died of pneumonia in March of that year, to be followed by Alick only three months later. Harry became the sole managing director.
The Second World War saw the brewery depleted of staff due to military service. Seventy-five were away by 1940, though production continued as beer was not rationed and indeed, was regarded as a morale-boosting essential.
Harry’s sons, Jasper and Laurie, now largely managed shepherd Neame.
1939 - 2000
Post-Second World War
Harry died in 1947 and nine years later, Jasper's eldest son Robert, known as Bobby, joined the company.
In 1958 Shepherd Neame produced one of its most distinctive beers, Bishop's Finger. The strong, typically Kentish ale was named, according to folklore, after a signpost that pointed the way to Thomas Becket's tomb.
Upon Jasper's death in 1961, aged 56, Laurie became the sole MD.
In 1968 Shepherd Neame demonstrated the innovation for which it has become renowned when it became the first regional brewer of lager in the UK when it started brewing Hürlimann, eventually coming to own the popular brand.
Laurie died in 1970 and Bobby became chairman, a position he held for 35 years. By the end of the decade the brewery had acquired 65 pubs in total and Bobby reported an eight-fold increase in profits.
In 1990 Shepherd Neame produced Spitfire to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Much like its aerial namesake, Spitfire took off thanks, in part, to its cheeky Dads Army-style humor.
In 1991 Bobby's son Jonathan Neame joined the company. He was appointed managing director in 1999.
Stronger Than Ever
Jonathan Neame was appointed chief executive in 2003 and Miles Templeman became chairman in 2005.
In 2004 the company undertook a major upgrade with the installation of a new keg plant and the opening of a new distribution centre. It followed that with a new cask packaging operation in 2007 and bottling line in 2009 respectively.
Bobby Neame stepped down as chairman in 2005 and retired from the board a year later. He is now Shepherd Neame's first Company President and has worked at the brewery for more than 50 years.
In 2006 Shepherd Neame received the Queen's Award for Sustainable Development and was named the Best UK Family Business in the £25m plus turnover category of the Coutts Prize for Family Business 2009/10. Its estate comprises more than 350 pubs.
Shepherd Neame is renowned for its distinctive beers, with names like Spitfire, Bishop's Finger and Asahi among its most popular brands.
There is nothing like good traditional English Ale. I love the way it taste, whether it’s in a pub…or in my living room. What makes the Spitfire even more appealing, is the tradition associated with it. I love the fact that it commemorates the actual Spitfire aircraft, which drove the Nazis out of England. You have to love a good story. As for the beer, it lives up to the legend. The pour is slick and pure, just like it should be. You can immediately smell the malt, and the promise of good English Ale. Orange overtones, and a grassy aftertaste compliment this lovely brew. What a great way to start my weekend. Long live the King!
8.5/10 – Long live the King!