Tonight I review another from one of my favourite stables. That would be Shepherd Neame and the choice of brew is a 'winter warmer', so claimed on the bottle, by the name of Amber Ale. Presented to me by the in-laws who have chosen well, it is true, but I am going to review this at the height of summer as is my general non conformist wont. In a rare move I have actually taken the picture myself!
Would you like to swim under the wort with me?
A good start, as ever, is the clear glass bottle that immediately shows you the colour and, in this case, we have a deep brown chestnutty amber that lends itself to the name. The art on the bottle promises the sort of spicy taste and fiery feeling that I associate with Autumn Red (here) and the colour is reasonably close. On opening the whisp of CO2 suggests a pleasant and light carbonation and the pour merely serves to confirm it. Little to no head, but a skein of bubbles.
Aroma is like woodsmoke, hanging in the air and dry, and does a good job, here in summer, of evoking barbeques and open fires. It's a good smoke feel rather than the sort that leaves your nose too dry and leads to dry throat. Definite hops on the nose, imparting that citrus tang, but muscled out by that woodsmoke, which is actually rather positive. Good accompanying hints of wheat and barley swim around and entice the drinker further. First sip is rewarding and oddly, but positively, hard to pin down. It takes a while for the taste to take hold. Sure enough there's that undertone of smokey spices, on a bed of smooth but limited barley and wheat malts, fading gently to a satisfying hoppy bitter end. However, these hops are more of the spicy and warm variety than the citrus adventure of Wild Raven (here) or the floral headiness of Halcyon (here) as one would expect from the Kentish ale brewers.
It also works as a sessionable ale. I suspect that, at 3.8% ABV, this won't leave you with a bad head in the morning. As a consequence it is different to a lot of the ales that I review here as it would easily keep going late into the night.
Enjoy this in winter, as advertised, or in summer. Despite the claims this would work well all year round, accompany with a traditional fish and chips (may I humbly recommend an independent northern chip shop over a Midland chain or a southern attempt of the same) and gravy. Watch nothing on the TV and, instead, watch the world go by - either from the comfort of a warm room through heavy drapes in winter (avoid any heating but roaring fires) or through open windows facing a nice garden in summer as the dying rays of the sun illuminate the ends of high branches in the trees. Kentish brewed and Kentish in nature.