Question – When is a “Double-Stout” not a Double-Stout? Answer – When it’s brewed by Shepherd Neame and has an abv of just 3.8%!
This isn’t a beer I would normally contemplate buying. The facts outlined above speak volumes against something that masquerades as a strong stout, and yet is brewed to such a low strength. The fact that Shepherd Neame are behind it is like a red rag to a bull, so far as I am concerned, and even though the beer was seen on sale at Lidl’s, just before Christmas and priced at just 99p, none of this would have induced me to buy a bottle.
So how did I end up with three bottles? And why am I now trying the beer and writing about it? Simples, the beer turned out to be an unwanted gift to the husband of a friend of my wife’s, and she, knowing my fondness for the juice of the barley, as well as her husband’s rather conservative tastes in beer (he’s the type of bloke that will go out of his way to drink Doom Bar!), thought I would like them.
OK, it was a nice thought, and I shouldn’t be ungrateful, but I really wonder at the direction being taken by Kent’s largest, and oldest, brewer, where they see fit to churn out cheap, low-strength beers for sale in budget supermarkets, whilst flooding their pubs with umpteen brands of “brewed under licence”, international lager. I was in Lidl’s a couple of days ago, and noticed a so-called IPA from Shep's; strength, you’ve guessed it, 3.8%!
So, before I totally condemn the beer, what does this fine example of the “brewer’s art” actually taste like? Well, jet-black in colour, it poured with much more of a head than I was expecting. There was some roast and chocolate notes in the aroma, but taste-wise it was something of a let down as, although the balance was right, the stout was thin and lacking in body. On the positive side it was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting, and had it been brewed at say 4.8%, rather than a percentage point below, it would have been quite a decent beer.
So come on Shep’s, what do you want to be? A brewer of cheap, low-strength beers for supermarkets? A purveyor of ersatz international Japanese/American/Dutch/Swiss/Indian/Chinese lager brands or the proud custodian of Kent’s long and colourful brewing history, and the rightful heir to the title “Kent’s Best”?*
Footnote: Interesting and confusing at the same time. Shepherd Neame produce another bottled Double-Stout; this time brewed to the much more respectable abv of 5.2%. This beer is packaged in a proper brown glass bottle, rather than a clear one, and has a vintage-looking, beige-coloured label showing the brewery’s old logo of the super-imposed S and N. I must look out for a bottle and give it a try.
* "Kent's Best", was Fremlin's old slogan. It was richly deserved, as Fremlins beers were highly regarded and extremely poplar with the county's drinkers. Fremlins acquired the slogan following their takeover of George Beer & Rigden, of Canterbury and Faversham, back in 1949.