>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.


About leighgoodstuff

Blog: https://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com/ I'm Leigh Linley; born and bred in Leeds, and writing about it since 2005. TGS exists solely to highlight the great beers that are out there; brewed with passion by Craft Brewers around the World. I also edit the 'Tavern Tales' section of Culture Vulture, which looks at Pubs and Pub Life rather than the beer in the glass.

Posted on 24/01/2009, in beer reviews, Shepherd Neame Winter Hops Ale, winter warmers. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. >I was in a clear bottle, I assume? It’s a pity because even if this one turned up in Ireland I wouldn’t buy it. I find the light strike overpowering in poorly handled Neame ales.

  2. >I’ll take a malty mouthfeel over the bitter cloy of hops zealotry (problematic in many Oregon beers, imo) any day.

  3. >Thom – yes it was – and like I say, I don’t generally drink SN’s stuff myself. It does all seem to taste the same.Heather -And therein lies the problem with many american beers – lack of balance.

  4. >I’m with you on not being a huge Shep fan, and I’m a man of Kent! I’m always underwhelmed by them and get a distinct cardboard taste. I did have a great pint of Whitstable Bay organic ale which has changed my mind a little. I’ll have to look out for the Winter Hop Ale, it sounds good and should see it soon as the supermarkets are full of Shep beers down here!

  5. >This post has got me thinking about overrated breweries and at the risk of being castigated here is my list.Timothy Taylor – (Specifically Landlord) Yes, shock horror, I’m having a pop at Taylors. I’ve been building my case for a while, I remember when you got a pint of Landlord and the aroma used to slap you in the face when the pint was only half way across the bar, nowadays it’s a shadow of its former self a whimpering snivelling excuse for a pint, I could be laying it on a bit thick here but you get the picture. Granted this doesn’t stop me ordering it in pubs in the vain hope I’ll be proved wrong.Copper Dragon – if “M’eh” had a flavour it would taste like the output from this brewery. I can’t explain it but I’ve never had a beer from Copper Dragon I found interesting.Theakstons – A less controversial choice perhaps but compared to Jennings beers (a brewery I perceive to be a similar size) they don’t even compare.Brewdog – This choice comes with some qualification, I’m not saying that I don’t like their beers, in fact I admire their uncompromising attitude and commitment to turning out quality product as well as their shrewd marketing. What gets me is the size of the boner the beer community have for their products, it comes across as very sycophantic, fawning fanboy nonsense of the highest order. The beer has an almost Obamaesque” level of hype to live up to.Actually my gripe isn’t with brewdog it’s with their fanboys, I’ll shut up now.

  6. >American beers aren’t really about balance. They’re about hops and alcohol. The argument over here is English beers are bland. So it’s a two way street. Get a young American beer freak to travel to the UK and he’d probably wonder if England is really the birthplace of his beloved ale. Same sort of thing an Englishman experienced when he came over here the first time and tasted Bud.

  7. >You’ve got a good set up. We need to find something that will encourage folks to bring it to us freely!

  8. >Tastes are subjective guys – nice comments! John, i’ll take this Taylors thing up with you in York!!

  9. >Ha ha ha, provided it doesn’t involve any fistycuffs I’ll be glad to take it up with you.

  10. >I thought John’s comments were really interesting. I don’t have a good enough palate to even approach being a beer expert, but what I enjoy is finding a pub with a good range of ale – bottled or draught – so I can sit there sampling (along with the steak pie, of course). And therein lies the problem. There’s a lot of foodie-pubs with safe-but-limited beer choice, a lot of pour-it-down-yer-throat bars, far fewer try-this-and-see-if-you-like-it pubs. Perhaps the brewers are aiming for the first two markets too much, because that’s where they see the volume – and that’s a real shame because it undermines beer-drinking as a pleasurable past-time. I noted a BBC news item today (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7852695.stm) stating that Pub beer sales were falling at record levels; a Treasury spokesperson regretted this, saying that “higher duty was being used to fight child poverty”. In a pig’s ear it is! New Mission Statement for the Industry: “Drink more moderate beer: it helps suffering children”!!!

  11. >jan – yeah i know what you mean. One of the simple points of me sharing my thoughts and observations with people is simply to point them in the right way. I agree the pub trade seems to swing in either ‘an embarrasment of riches’ or ‘nothing at all’, but hopefully our ‘missions’ if you will let people know ‘the good stuff’ is out there.John – as tow northern lads i’m sure it’ll be settled by heated debate over a pint of Taylors (served at the right temp, of course)!!!

  12. >”I get a lot of beer bought for me” – what a great problem to have! 🙂

  13. >I had some winter hop ale myself and I have to say, it is the nicest new ale I have tried in a while.

  14. >Changes are afoot at Sheps – David Holmes is an awesome brewer!

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