Brewery Focus -Westerham Brewery Company.
By Cheryl Cade, Thirst Consultants.
Recently I was a fortunate to be a judge at the World Beer Awards, it was evident here that there is a growing number of breweries developing Gluten Free Beers (GF). I have also been speaking to GF brewers who have all said their first aim is to ‘brew good beer, which has the benefit of being GF.’
So my next few features will be focusing on some of these Great British Breweries.
For this article I will be looking at a brewery who’s beers have been featured in the Top 100 beer’s to try, and have some of the top beer writers in the world rating them very highly, from Jeff Evans to Roger Protz.
Westerham Brewery Company, Westerham, Kent
In 2004 Robert Wicks established the Westerham Brewery Company. This led to the introduction of brewing to the town of Westerham in Kent after the closure of the Black Eagle Brewery in 1965.
One of the main reasons for establishing the brewery was to bring a local product to the local market that used local ingredients and reduced food miles.
The water for Westerham’ beer comes from a bore hole that is sunk 141 meters into the Hythe Beds. These form part of the Lower Greensand Ridge to the south of the town and makes for excellent bitters.
They use English malts supplied from 2 different maltsers. Their pale ale malt comes from our local maltings in Fakenham, Crisp Maltings and their coloured malts are from French & Jupps in Hertfordshire. They favour using the premium malt, Maris Otter that is grown in Norfolk and is one of the oldest barley strains; it has been in use for over 51 years.
Westerham continues it links with Norfolk as it was the National Collection of Yeast Cultures based in Norwich that they came to, to find the original yeast strain used by the Black Eagle Brewery.
It is in the use of local hops that they maintain their wish to be as local as possible. 96% of their hops are local Kent hops and they have close links to the Scotney Castle Estate which has been reintroducing hop growing to their lands.
They are so passionate about their Green and Ethical ideals that they have developed the following initiatives.
- Encouraging the planting of new hop varieties in a new hop gardens at Scotney Castle
- Paying a significant proportion of the sales of the Scotney Ales to reinvest in the hop garden at Scotney Castle
- Launching one of the first Fairtrade beers on draught – William Wilberforce Freedom Ale
- Tithing 10% of the profits of the William Wilberforce Freedom Ale to Stop the Traffic
- Tithing 10% of the profits of Gods Wallop to a charity each Christmas
- Instigating land spreading of our effluent on the land to replace trucking it away
- Purchase of two LPG powered delivery vans and an plug in hybrid powered sales car
- Reducing water usage in the brewery to under 3.5 : 1 ratio
- Removing all plastic waste from our bottled beer products and replacing with recyclable items
Westerham brew a number of beers, but the following are their current GF styles. These are mostly bottled beers as with some other forms of dispensing you have to consider the possibility of cross contamination.
They use a proprietary method to reduce the gluten content of the beer to less than the WHO’s Codex Alimentarius determined level of 20ppm or less of gluten. They are so proud and certain of their method that like the Belgian Brewery, Brunehaut you can check your individual batch number on their website.
Let us start with my favourite, their beautiful Czech Pilsner, Bohemian Rhapsody. This is a 5% Straw yellow lager (lager means stored in chilled conditions for 4 weeks). It is hopped with Czech grown Saaz or Zatec noble hops. This gives it a distinctive hop aroma and bitterness usually found in Bohemian pilsners. Brewed with the finest English lager malt and fermented with a lager yeast. This gives you a beer that tastes of some malt sweetness but has an aroma of rich tropical fruits.
Sticking with the light summer beers that pack a bit more hop into the taste buds we turn to the Hop Rocket IPA. This is to my tastes more of an English IPA as it uses English hops and has a lovely herby, floral aroma. It is balanced with a malt back from the Maris Otter malt which gives it a lovely deep gold colour. The ABV on this beer is only 5.5% so it is not as strong as the other IPAs on the market, some of them being 6% plus.
Now lets move to the traditional area of bitters and this is a good example of a bitter, Scotney Bitter. It is a lovely 4.3% balanced bitter, it has a rich mahogany colour which hints at its malty spicy aroma. It tastes of sweet malt yet it ends with a clean dry finish that does not cling. It uses hops from Scotney Castle and was originally brewed for the National trust along with the Scotney Pale Ale, 4%. This is an English Pale ale with earthy hop notes and soft sweet malt.
They also produce, British Bulldog, a 4.3% best bitter with a full flavour, aroma and body. For something with a bit more Apricot and soft fruit try their Viceroy India Pale Ale. This is another English IPA and just shows how much these guys like hops, yet how they can balance them with great tastes and brew to style.
For the final beer I am going to let another author describe Audit Ale, (6.2% ABV) as I can not think of a better way to describe it;
“Based on a 1938 recipe, it is tawny-copper in colour, and has stewed fruit (raisins perhaps?) and barley sweetness on the nose, accompanied by hints of almond, Bakewell tart and wood in the background. It’s a noble and assured beer, with plenty of poise on the palate — there’s a restrained vinous-like sweetness, the suggestion of raisins and currants steeped in booze, some slight chocolate, plus a whisper of banana. The finish is dry and appetising bitter with a glissade-like descent of barley cereal sweetness bringing things to a close before the next sip.” – Adrian Tierney-Jones – World Bottled Beers
Do you fancy being a beer judge or trying some of these great beers? Then check out the First Ever Gluten Free Beer and Sausage Festival. October 15th at the Narthex, St John the Baptist, Norwich. Follow the link below for more details.
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