>Shepherd Neame Winter Hop Ale
One of the upsides of being known for having a love of beer that ventures into obsession is that I get a lot of beer bought for me. People go to new places, they bring me back beer. My partner is now trained so highly that if she is visiting somewhere and sees beer that she’s not seen me drink, she picks it up. I really couldn’t ask for more.
Of course, Christmas meant a bumper crop of beers to swell my cellar. Among all the treats nestled this Shepherd Neame offering, Winter Hop Ale. Now, something of a secret. It went to the back of the queue because – and this may shock – but I’m not generally a fan of SN’s beers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been known to enjoy the odd Spitfire on draught, and who hasn’t cut their teeth on Bishop’s Finger – but it’s exactly that for me. Surely my palate is…more refined now to go back to these hoary old beers of my youth?
Apparently not. Because I really enjoyed Winter Hop.
The only clue to it’s 7% abv was an entirely pleasant chest-warming sensation: not overpowering at all. Although the head disappeared faster than Usain Bolt, this light mahogany-shaded beer remained well-balanced until the end. Smooth, caramelly maltiness dominated the mouthfeel, but that trademark SN peppery hoppy note lingered on the nose. Boiled sweets came to the fore at the back of the throat, and i don’t mind confessing I’ve actually bought another bottle of this since. It’s surprisingly smooth and a pleasure to drink; although I would not pick it up specifically as a ‘winter warmer’.
My lesson had been learnt. Write off breweries at your peril.